Dozens of Netflix employees on Wednesday staged a walkout of the company building in California, US, against the streaming giant’s decision to release comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special, The Closer. The protestors said that Chapelle’s standup ridicules transgender people. Several people who were not Netflix employees also joined the rally in support of the walkout called the Stand-Up in Solidarity. Additionally, some Netflix employees who were working remotely shut their laptops and called off work for the day at noon, NYT reported. The protestors carried signs that read“Hey Netflix: Do Better” and “Transphobia Is Not a Joke.”
Chapelle, in the special, reportedly aligns himself as Team TERF which stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Chappelle also addressed critiques he has received from the LGBTQ community in the special. “What comedians say in a comedy show does matter and it does have real-world consequences. I didn’t have a problem with most of his humor but to say gender is real and to align with TERFs, who want to deny the reality and existence of transgender people being the gender that they truly are in their mind and heart is very, very harmful,” Bridget Sampson, who is not a Netflix employee and has a transgender daughter told CNN.
The company CEO, Ted Sarandos, on October 8th, sent an internal email saying the company would not be taking down the special. He also said that he did not believe that Chappelle’s stand-up crossed a line, which further inflamed the situation. However, Sarandos later told Variety in an interview that he screwed up when it came to how he has handled criticism of the special.
“While we appreciate the acknowledgment of the screw-up, in his own words, we want to actually talk about what that repair looks like,” said Ashlee Marie Preston, who was one of the organisers of the protest and was featured in the Netflix documentary “Disclosure,” about Hollywood’s impact on the transgender community. She noted that she was there because Netflix employees have to be very careful about speaking to the news media.
Earlier this month, Netflix had suspended and later reinstated a Trans employee for tweeting about Chapelle’s special. Terra Field, a software engineer tweeted about Chappelle, writing that the comedian attacks the trans community and the validity of transness in the special. Shortly after the tweet thread went viral, Netflix suspended Field along with two other employees for trying to attend a director-level meeting they weren’t invited to.