Members of a trans employee resource group at Netflix are calling for a company-wide walkout in the latest development of the controversy over Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special The Closer, in which the comedian told demeaning jokes about trans women’s genitals, among other material on LGBTQ+ identity.
The proposed action is set to take place October 20, according to internal documents obtained by The Verge.
“As an organization, Netflix has continually failed to show deep care in our mission to Entertain the World by repeatedly releasing content that harms the Trans community and continually failing to create content that represents and uplifts Trans content,” the organizers wrote. “We can and must do better!”
The labor protest comes on the heels of Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos’ response to the recent firestorm, which circulated publicly and drew further criticism this week.
“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,” Sarandos wrote to employees, in an email published by Variety.
“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries,” he continued, patronizing in tone. “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.”
Sarandos also insisted the company had no intention of removing the special.
GLAAD clapped back at Sarandos, issuing a statement calling on the streaming giant to support queer people within its own walls and beyond.
“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,” the media watchdog wrote.
The October 5 release of The Closer was quickly met with uproar from LGBTQ+ staffers, critics, and advocacy groups, including GLAAD and The National Black Justice Coalition, who swiftly and unequivocally criticized Chappelle for queer- and transphobic material.
Among them was senior software engineer Terra Field, who condemned the special in a viral Twitter thread. Field was subsequently suspended from the company, along with two other employees, for attending a director-level meeting, according to The Verge.
Field, who shared that she had been reinstated on Tuesday night, wrote of the backlash to Chappelle: “This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be.”
Organizers of the walkout have expressed frustration with the company’s response to widespread condemnation of The Closer thus far.
“Our leadership has shown us they do not uphold the values to which we are held,” they wrote to fellow employees. “Between the numerous emails and non-answers that have been given, we have been told explicitly that we somehow cannot understand the nuance of certain content.”
Their next move is a call to action. It remains to be seen how a walkout could impact operations at the company, which has 209 million paid subscribers worldwide.
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