The outcry by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and allies since the release last week of the Netflix Dave Chappelle’s comedy special The Closer, regarding transphobic and other anti-LGBTQ innuendo and statements by the comedian grew on Monday after the company suspended one of its Trans employees.
Adding more fuel to the ongoing controversy in a memorandum to the company’s staff members obtained by entertainment trade news magazine Variety, sent last week by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, the company executive defended Chappelle.
“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. His last special “Sticks & Stones,” also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date,” Sarandos wrote in the memo.
“As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful,” he added.
Sarandos in his memo wrote, “Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
LGBTQ Media watch group GLAAD responded to Sarandos’ memo saying that anti-LGBTQ content is technically against Netflix policy.
“Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that,” the statement reads. “While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards.”
After the special aired, Terra Field, an Out Trans Netflix senior software engineer based in San Francisco, posted a series of tweets that expressed anger over Chappelle’s blatant transphobia.
Field in her Twitter thread countered the position laid out by Sarandos, pointing out that Chappelle’s promoting the kind of ideology and speech can result in real-world consequences especially death for Trans people.
In her tweets, Field writes, “Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the Trans community, and the very validity of transness – all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups. You’re going to hear a lot of talk about ‘offense.’ We are not offended.”
Field went on to say of Chappelle, “our existence is ‘funny’ to him – and when we object to his harm, we’re ‘offended.’” She then listed numerous names of Trans people, specifically highlighting Trans women of color, killed in hate crimes. The thread went viral and as of Monday, the initial tweet had more than 13,000 retweets and 35,000 likes.
In reporting by both The Verge and Variety on Monday, Field and two other employees were suspended by the company although Netflix denies that Field was suspended due to the twitter thread. A source in the company told Variety that Field, who identifies as queer and Trans, and the other employees were not invited to the virtual gathering last week of the company’s executives, the “QBR” — Netflix’s quarterly business review, a two-day affair that convenes the top 500 employees at the company.
“It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so,” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety.
Neither Field nor Netflix responded to requests for comment Monday by the Blade.