Netflix likes to promote itself as inclusive but has badly stumbled over the last few weeks. The current controversy centers on Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special The Closer, which contains explicitly transphobic comments.
In response to the criticism, it made some seriously bone-headed moves, with CEO Ted Sarandos releasing a bizarre statement comparing the show to “first-party [sic] shooter games” and suspending a trans employee who spoke out against it (they rapidly did a 180 on this when they realized how it looked).
Now that suspended employee, Terra Field, has posted a lengthy essay saying that the problems at Netflix go deeper than a single comedy special:
“Dave is not, and has never been, the cause of this problem — he is a symptom of it. That Dave believes the things he says and can say them with relative impunity is a result of the culture we live in: a culture that marginalizes and devalues trans people. He contributes to that culture in a very real way, but at least he isn’t out there bragging about how many LGBTQ+ allyship awards he has won while he is doing it.”
This is a none-too-subtle jab at Sarandos, who is trying his absolute hardest to have his cake and eat it. Field went on to say that she’s not calling for The Closer to be removed, but wants Netflix to cut out the hypocrisy:
“I am asking for Netflix (and other companies with similar levels of influence) to: Stop pretending that transphobia in media has no effect on society (while promoting a documentary about how transphobia in media effects society and other performative allyship); Acknowledge the disproportionate effect this has on marginalized communities; Put a content warning in front of existing content that contains transphobia.”
“When a company like Netflix says something like, ‘We do not believe this content is harmful to the transgender community,’ you can be virtually certain that not a single trans person was involved in that decision. And how are we supposed to speak up for ourselves if we aren’t in the room? And how are Black trans women supposed to speak up for themselves if the company doesn’t employ any?”
With the walkout happening tomorrow, this bad press isn’t going away anytime soon. Beyond its staff, there are already rumblings from their biggest talent that they’re not happy. For example, Hannah Gadsby of the mega-popular Nanette wrote:
“You didn’t pay me nearly enough to deal with the real world consequences of the hate speech dog whistling you refuse to acknowledge, Ted. F**k you and your amoral algorithm cult…”
It sounds like there’s more drama to come at Netflix, but in the meantime, full support to those who walk out tomorrow, and I hope this continued negative coverage is making the CEO sweat.