Netflix suspended employees for criticizing Dave Chappelle’s transphobia

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As we discussed last week, Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix standup special is called The Closer. Within that comedy special, Chappelle returns to some of new favorite subjects: how much he hates transgender people and how cancel culture is coming to get him because he says sh-t like “I’m Team TERF” and “JK Rowling is right.” I think Chappelle’s comedy was once really good and fresh, but his comedy has aged like milk, and now he just comes across as another comedian hack, a has-been who thinks it’s funny to punch down on marginalized communities. Does Netflix have the responsibility to stop platforming Chappelle though? I don’t know. I think Netflix president Ted Sarandos needs to say and do more, because this sh-t ain’t it:

Netflix has suspended three employees, including a trans staffer who publicly spoke out against Dave Chappelle’s controversial comedy special, The Closer, which has come under sharp criticism from groups such as GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition over jokes those organizations and others have said were hurtful and cruel to or dismissive of the LGBTQ community.

A source said that the employees, including engineer Terra Field, whose Twitter thread about the special went viral, were suspended for attempting to join a quarterly meeting meant only for directors or vice presidents, and not because of Field’s tweets.

“It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show,” a Netflix spokesperson said. “Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos also defended the comedian in a memo that was sent out on Friday and confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter. In the memo, Sarandos warned senior staff that “some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do… Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. … 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, like Cuties, 365 Days, 13 Reasons Why or My Unorthodox Life,” Sarandos 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,” he added. “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.”

In a statement about the memo and suspension of employees, GLAAD said, “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. 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.”

[From THR]

So… Netflix didn’t suspend their employees for being trans, or for being vocal about trans rights and brutality against trans people. They suspended employees for trying to be vocal about those issues on a call to management. I don’t know why Netflix’s suits thought that sounded better. And please don’t make me dissect the head-spinning “cancel culture” arguments – all I know is that a corporation is publicly siding with a rich, well-loved comedian who is inciting hate on a marginalized community. That same corporation is punishing their own employees for trying to talk about it publicly and talk about it with management.

Here’s the start of Terra Field’s Twitter thread:

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Photos courtesy of Mathieu Bitton/Netflix.

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52 Responses to “Netflix suspended employees for criticizing Dave Chappelle’s transphobia”

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  1. Woke says:

    People found out a way to make money off our outrage. So these kinda of things will become more common. People deliberately trying to provoke. I wish we would not give air to those kind of comments but at the same time it’s the outrage that lead us to change in the world.

    • MissMarirose says:

      This is spot on. Netflix knows that this kind of controversy will boost viewers and they, quite frankly, don’t care whether they come from fans or “hate views.” (See e.g. Emily in Paris.)
      They could have easily done things that would keep this discussion in house. They did this to keep people “talking” about Chapelle’s show. It’s disgustingly cynical.

  2. BlueSky says:

    Just say we don’t give a sh@t because he’s making us a lot of money and keep it moving. A lot of people on Twitter pointed out the hypocrisy when they pulled one of Hasan Minaj’s episodes of the Patriot Act in order to appease the Saudi government.
    I agree. He’s a has been who knows the only way he will get attention is to do this kind of standup. It’s rich when they scream about cancel culture (to their hundreds of millions of fans) because someone dared to criticize them but they can’t understand why people get offended at their tasteless jokes and say they don’t have a sense of humor and call everyone else too sensitive. Dave Chappelle is nothing more than a snowflake and the epitome of toxic masculinity.

  3. Jess says:

    I used to really like him but I am getting sick of these powerful people claiming they’re victims of “cancel culture” merely because they’re criticized for punching down at vulnerable communities. This is yet also another example of how cancel culture doesn’t truly exist – at least not for powerful people.

    • BnlurkN4ever says:

      I completely agree. I used to really like him until I realized he is a bully who only cares about himself and those positioned EXACTLY like him, meaning black heterosexual men and NO ONE else. He is exactly like the thing he fights against and I hope someone powerful with a platform stands up to him and tell him so.

    • sunny says:

      This part! I think so much of his early comedy is brilliant and I used to love him but he has become so protected by his success that his comedy hasn’t evolved and he has gone around expressing really hateful things and existing in an echo chamber.

      But Netflix is doing the least because he makes them money. Sigh.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I totally agree, Jess. I used to love Chappell, and this is so disappointing and harmful. It’s ABSURD that a man who got paid $60 MILLION DOLLARS is pretending to be some kind of “victim”.

  4. Laura-Lee MacDonald says:

    My youngest is Trans. I’ve had a Netflix membership since they were mailing me dvds. I will cancel my membership so fast if they don’t do a major pivot on this bullshit.

    • nicegirl says:

      With you

      • BothSidesNow says:

        Me too!! This looks so bad on Netflix. They are taking the side of a comedian that is purposely hurting a marginalized group because he’s a popular comedian? To who? None of us that think that his acts are funny or his blatant attacks against the Trans population, or women?

        You don’t punish your staff for standing up for themselves either!!

      • Jesma says:

        He is popular. Netflix knows exactly how many people watch his specials. Same reason they didn’t remove Louis CK specials. These comedians attract millions and millions of fans. Netflix cares about money. Same thing with JK Rowling. Harry Potter is too huge to cancel. If you are popular enough and generate a lot of money you are pretty much untouchable for verbal transgressions. Hell, if you are successful enough you can even evade negative consequences for physical transgressions. In fact think about how many successful rapists are walking around free and working.

    • STRIPE says:

      Laura Lee I’m sorry to say but pull that ripcord now, nothing is going to change over there in this respect anytime soon.

  5. Mac says:

    Trans women, especially Black trans women, are at extremely high risk of violence or murder for simply existing. Feeding the hate has deadly consequences. Netflix and Chappelle need to do a lot better.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ Mac, there are multiple trans Black women that are being killed in Dallas! And they aren’t quick murders either. They are tortured for days and left out in the open in disrespectful positions. The Black Trans women are under constant threat, and giving Chapelle the chance to encourage more hate, the violence will follow. It’s tremendously sad in Dallas. No one should be treated this way, but especially those who are wanting to live as their true authentic self.

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        Wait, since you’re using present tense, are you talking about an actual serial killer on the loose? Or just the general attitude towards trans women in Texas?

  6. Merricat says:

    I used to love Chappelle. Now I point to him as an example of the oppressed who go on to oppress others.

    • BnlurkN4ever says:

      Yep, this. It’s so heartbreaking to see this and I can’t understand how someone who is obviously intelligent to know better can do this in an attempt to gain a financial reward.

  7. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    This is just their reminder that money trumps all. And this outrage is also free advertising for them.

    It’s just sad that this indeed earns them the most money. :/ But that’s our society in 2021.

  8. Paloma says:

    I watched the special, I kept waiting for it to get good. He sounds ridiculous.
    Spoiler:

    The trans thing is not one part it’s the whole subject. He talks about how people (allies I guess) come up to him criticizing him about his lgbt stances and how those people are stupid and don’t get his comedy and don’t know him. He makes jokes about how manly trans women look how old whites women look and how butch lesbians are indistinguishable from men (this is still on the trans subject as he speaking about people who come up to him about it.) he talks about how his wife has a real vagina and he likes how warm it is, and says trans women are more like « beyond chicken » (the fake meat product instead of real chicken. (Not sure if he said chicken or meat.) then he gets self righteous. Tells a story of a trans women who he was friends with, who was bullied by other trans people after defending him on Twitter. Mentions she killed herself by jumping off a building and says that was a manly choice that women wouldn’t use for suicide. Says he set up a college fund for this woman’s daughter and that he will say « I knew your father » when he gives it to her. Ponders if the trans community was as generous as he was to the dead woman, that’s how it ends. He sprinkled in jokes about low classy white people /their preferred restaurants etc throughout and that’s the whole thing! Oh and at the beginning he says (paraphrasing) black people are jealous/shocked at how easy things are for lgbt people

    • AmelieOriginal says:

      Ugh, thank you for summing it up so I don’t have to watch it. I wasn’t planning to. I have never really watched Dave Chappelle’s comedy, I’ve seen him in a few late night interviews and I watched the SNL episode he hosted a few years ago. I don’t know if he’s always been like this and maybe he can’t help it but to me he always looks so sardonic and smug. Like he’s the only one in the room who gets it and everybody else is too stupid to catch on. Looks like I don’t need to waste my time getting familiar with his brand of comedy.

    • Persephone says:

      Wow. Just…wow.
      That is so wrong in so many ways I can’t even…
      How can Netflix let this garbage play?

    • Erica says:

      Listen, I think JK Rowling is trash for her comments and attitude towards transgender people. I think Chappelle was wrong for saying TERF and supporting her. But I also don’t think you’re characterizing all of his comments correctly. He said he would tell her daughter, “I knew your father. She was an incredible woman.” He also says the “manly thing to do” is a hard joke to tell, but it was the kind of joke she would have loved. I think we should dismiss all of his “comedy” except for this: People of color in the LGBTQI community do not have the same safe spaces as whites in the community. I think we need to take a hard look at ourselves and wonder whether we are creating safe spaces for ALL LGBTQI, regardless of color. We need to make room for everyone in the movement and treat everyone as humans deserving of our respect. To his point, if a transgender woman disagrees with other transgender women, that’s ok. She shouldn’t be bullied into a corner but embraced for her diversity of opinion. And yes, the LGBTQI movement has made more significant strides, in less time, than Black and African American communities have been able to make. Maybe let’s put the comedian aside for a moment and think about why that is, and how we can do better.

      • ThatsNotOkay says:

        @ERICA You said it better than I could. He said he’s never had a problem with LGBTQ people, “if you listen to [his] comedy, [he] has always had a problem…with white people.” And he relates it to white feminism and I have to say, I’m in agreement on that overall point, at least. I understand the hurt and offense people have taken about how some of his comedy seems so laser focused (obsessively so?) on the trans community—the white trans community, at least—though. And if white trans activism that excludes trans activism for other POC is his concern, he is not clearly getting that point across because his comedy is peppered with other jokes that definitely seem lazier and anti-trans, full stop.

      • anniefannie says:

        Thank you! This tightrope is difficult to navigate but my read on Chappelles humor is he’s comparing the long slog of the AA experience to transgenders. It’s dicey but there’s a layer of underlying truth to what he’s asserting. It’s uncomfortable, it’s provocative but isn’t that what ( in this case ) comedy is supposed to unearth? Pointing out injustice that make people ponder or rethink their bias?

      • Maria says:

        It’s still a fact that Black trans women are murdered every year at a disproportionately greater rate than others, and his comments don’t exactly help the conversation in many ways.

      • STRIPE says:

        ERICA – I agree that it was more nuanced, especially around his friend. To me, he came off as genuine in his affection for her and his sadness that she is gone. I believe him in that.

        Where I struggle to understand him is WHY is he has this focus on the LGBT community, especially trans people. This is at least his 3rd special where he talks about them. Why is he so focused on them and using his platform and art to express that?

        I don’t feel like his comments speak to a deeper truth, speak truth to power, or offer any new insight, which is what good smart comedy can do. Why keep on about it? Especially when people are telling him that not only is he not contributing to the conversation in a meaningful way, he is hurting people.

      • Otaku fairy says:

        “People of color in the LGBTQI community do not have the same safe spaces as whites in the community.”

        This is true, but there’s more than one reason why it’s true. People of all races are fine with throwing poc who are marginalized for other reasons under the bus, and fine with stooping to erasure as long as it means they get to express transphobia, homophobia, or whatever other dismissive, hateful beliefs they want to express. Whatever can be used will be used to try to polish the turd in those cases. It happens with gender too. The reactions when you make it clear that you’ve come to take those issues just as seriously as racial and religious discrimination can be competitive and ugly no matter who you’re talking to. He can say it’s just white people he has an issue with, but JK Rowling and Louis CK are about as white as it gets. Yet he defends them and goes after the LGBTQI community.

    • Watcher says:

      I loved this 1-minute summary – thank you! I was never going to watch this hatemongering special anyways but was still curious. It sounds pretty awful.

      It’s sad to see comedians who used to be cutting edge turn into old out-of-touch kvetchers whining about KIDS TODAY who don’t get them.

    • Kviby says:

      That’s fine that he has a problem with white people. But trans white people are a very small minority or white people and I can’t imagine most of them are really trying to bother straight men since it’s most often a straight man who would murder them. It would have been much better for him to go after white men, such as trumpers and incels. The thing with this particular special is the jokes about white people were barely funny and the jokes about trans people were pretty flat. The non joke statements about trans people were very uncomfortable and NOT illuminating anything wise at all. He has a fair point worth much discussion about the struggle of black people being the longest and hardest. (Paving the way for any other minority in North America) This comedy wasn’t funny and I didn’t find it helped prove that point. That issue was hugely over shadowed by how many offensive things he said. I do think he was being earnest and loved his friend who died but there’s something about men born before 1975 or so that they are incapable of understanding trans issues but very interested in blabbing on about it. I didn’t know about norm MacDonald before he passed away last month and recently watched many clips of him, I appreciate his contribution to society but he had the blind spot too about trans women. These men don’t seem to understand how they sound. To younger people, the vast majority of their statements on transgender people are both dull and offensive. Ricky Gervais talks about it in at lease one special and it is not as unfunny as this, but i do find it the least funny subject of all his stuff.

    • ooshpick says:

      I came away with so much joy and inspiration despite being deeply uncomfortable at times ex. Space Jews *specifically the 2nd reference* (as a Jew) which was crushing and brilliant. I respect his mind that is in progress like all of our minds.

      • Maria says:

        There is a difference between a mind being in progress and doubling down on attitudes that help get people murdered.

  9. Otaku fairy says:

    So much for cancel culture. A lot of times the real punishment and bullying come for whoever is pointing out the risks of the stereotyping and stigma in an imperfect way. Not for the actual person or people adding to those risks. I don’t put it past Chapelle stans, transphobes, and homophobes to start cyberbullying these people.

  10. Veronica S. says:

    I mean, if I tried to barge into a meeting with management, I’d be fired. The fact that they’re trans is irrelevant to me in that regard, especially since the other two people are presumably not trans. The knife cuts both ways on that issue. If you don’t want to empower people who are pieces of shit to do things like that, you can’t let people who are oppressed minorities get away with it, either. Frankly, the fact that they’re allowed to post their opinions on Twitter is a big deal. I work for a huge company, and we have incredibly strict rules about what we’re allowed to put on social media.

    • Emma says:

      It’s a form of protest for civil rights, it’s profoundly ignorant to treat this as nothing more than interrupting a meeting, and it’s a very foolish (to say the least) choice for a company to come off that aggressive at a transgender person (a protected minority) trying to stand up for their rights. It’s exceedingly disrespectful of the lived experience of transgender people.

      Even employees still have the right to free speech and that includes social media, and I’m not here for giant corporations taking away the free speech of besieged human beings just because it reflects badly on them. People have a right to speak up.

      My god we aren’t going to be reduced to cogs in a machine for the benefit of corporate overlords who don’t care about human rights.

      • Pamplemousse says:

        I live in a country with practically iron-clad employee protections — it’s incredibly difficult to fire someone without cause (which is limited to a narrow set of circumstances requiring their own hoops). I think people should be able to post, say, and publish almost whatever they want in their free time without repercussion from their employer, whether it’s pro-trans, directly critical of their employer, or telling someone to go back to their hood. Where it gets dicey for me is when the protest happens on company time, on company property, disrupting company activity. At that point, you can argue that people still have a right to free speech, but the company has a right to respond according to the nature of the infraction. Is crashing an upper management meeting a fireable offense in my book? No, without more information probably not. But we’re being disingenuous if we pretend like a company doesn’t have grounds for some sort of disciplinary action here. Plus, Netflix is known for some rather unorthodox firing practices, where people have been let go for not uncontroversial reasons. I don’t agree with it, but this isn’t out of step with company practice overall.

      • Marie says:

        Employees don’t have the right to free speech if talking about their employer or business. Most large companies have social media policies that are enforceable if employee breaks policy.

      • Veronica S. says:

        Corporations are not where civil rights battles are won. Netflix is a private corporation. It is not subject to US laws pertaining to freedom of speech; that relates to government influence, not private. Even if they do have contractual requirements that limit what can be said on social media, that’s not a violation of their freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want on social media, but a company has no obligation to maintain your employment while you do it, something that has been determined multiple times in courts.

        What Netflix is subject to is discrimination laws, but since two other employees who are NOT trans were also suspended, that’s not what happened here. Unless there is a tangible link between their social media statements and them being suspended, there is not a case here to call it outright transphobic, nor would this individual have legal grounds for an unfair termination lawsuit.

        You may not like, and you may not agree with it in this instance, but corporations have to enforce these things across the board equally. The whole reason they can fire employees for being racist, sexist, etc. is because they enforce the contract for workplace standards across the board. Whether corporations should have this kind of power is a different question, but that’s part of a broader economic issue and not relevant to this discussion. We can argue all day about corporate power, but the fact that we know they have this power means that people go to work for them aware that they have that power.

  11. Wiglet Watcher says:

    I hope this blows up into a bigger story.
    Also, Chappelle is washed up. His creativity is gone and he’s a copy of his friends Kanye and Joe Rogan. Saying dumb bs thinking it’s intelligent. Edgy. But it’s truly insensitive and diminishing the loss and suffering people face every day.

    I’ll cancel Netflix too if this continues.

  12. BnlurkN4ever says:

    But in fact his words are harming others, a whole community of other and just because some don’t care for those others, don’t make them less valuable than those who don’t care about them.

  13. Lunasf17 says:

    I’ve never understood his appeal. I think I was in college when his show was and every college guy quoted it all the time. It was annoying then so I never got on his bandwagon. I 100% think Netflix knew exactly what they’re doing and wanted to stir up controversy to get more views, and it’s obviously working. People can simply not watch it and support different shows and/or cancel Netflix if they want. I don’t get all the energy going toward this one show when instead we could support trans content.

  14. steph says:

    Dave Chapelle is so out of touch, he thinks black trans people don’t exist.

  15. Kate says:

    “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.”

    If that’s what the President of Netflix thinks the definition of standup comedy is, maybe that explains why I’ve had such a hard time finding standup there that isn’t a white guy making fun of anything new, novel or different from his own life experiences.

  16. NE mom says:

    Ted Sarandos is incompetent. About a year ago he fired the person who actually made the decisions for the company and cleaned up his messes behind him. Expect to see more of this kind of thing from Netflix.

  17. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Bad move. Baaaaaadddd. If employees had to be suspended for verbalizing dislike of particular offensive programming, the offensive programming is part of this harassment orbit and deserves punishing consequences as well.

  18. Gigi LaMoore says:

    I’ve never thought he was funny. The only thing I laughed at was Charlie Murphy’s Hollywood stories. I wish we knew for sure why they were suspended. If it was for speaking out, that’s a “no” in my book and really wrong. If they did try to interrupt a meeting, then that’s a “no” in the business world, but instead of suspension, they could have warned them and set up a separate meeting to address their concerns.

  19. jo73c says:

    “Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him.”
    Translation: We already paid Chappelle for this crap, now we need to make our money back on it, and any publicity is good publicity, right bro?

  20. Merricat says:

    Crashing a meeting is grounds for suspension?

  21. Onemoretime says:

    I agreed they were suspended for something most of us would be fired from. Barging into a management meeting is why they were suspended. I had a supervisor who was a stickler for following the chain of command. When you feel there is a company issue there are proper steps and this was clearly not one of them.
    Was Dave wrong? Yes he was very wrong, but this misleading headline & the Twitter headlines are very misleading.

  22. iconoclast59 says:

    @Onemoretime, perhaps they tried to follow the proper steps and were ignored or rebuffed? I’d like to know more details.

  23. Onemoretime says:

    If they tried then they have grounds for legal action. However the first thing a lawyer/EEOC is going to ask is if the chain of command was followed.
    Me personally would go to a lawyer than to go to social media.