Netflix employees will do a ‘virtual walkout’ to protest Ted Serandos, Chappelle

London Film Festival 2021 - The Harder They Fall World Premiere Arrivals at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London

One of the things that’s crazy about this Netflix/Dave Chappelle/transphobia controversy is that this is not the first time Chappelle has done transphobic comedy. My guess is that his latest standup special, The Closer, was just the final straw for many. In the special, Chappelle declares himself “Team Terf” and takes JK Rowling’s side, which to be clear, is a bonkers position for anyone. What’s made this Chappelle issue so much worse is Netflix’s inability to take a nuanced position in which they defend Chappelle’s right to be terrible while also defending their transgender employees and listening to the trans community. There are many ways in which this controversy could have been handled much differently at a corporate level, but here we are. Ted Sarandos is too busy defending his choice to platform transphobic bigotry and isn’t seeing the bigger picture on this issue which should have been handled weeks ago.

At least one thousand Netflix employees are expected to participate in a virtual walkout to protest Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ recent comments in support of Dave Chappelle’s special, The Closer, according to a current staffer who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter.

As first reported by The Verge, trans staffers and allies at Netflix are planning to stage the virtual walkout next Wednesday, Oct. 20, after Sarandos sent two memos to staff — one on Oct. 8 and another to all Netflix staffers on Monday — stating that the company would not be removing the special, in which Chappelle mocks gender identities and defends J.K. Rowling’s transphobic remarks, among other comments.

In the second memo, sent on Monday, Sarandos argued that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” according to a copy reviewed by THR. “The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries,” Sarandos wrote in the memo, which was first reported by Variety. “Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse — or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy — without it causing them to harm others.”

The current Netflix staffer said Sarandos’ memos were largely the impetus behind the walkout, organized by the Trans* employee resource group at the streamer but which received support from several allies at the company. During the walkout, participating staffers will not do any work for the streamer and instead focus on donating to charities and encouraging others to engage in content that does support the trans community, according to the staffer.

“The memo was very disrespectful,” the staffer, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the subject, said. “It didn’t invite a robust conversation about this hard topic, and that’s normally how things go.”

In a statement sent to THR earlier on Wednesday, a Netflix spokesperson said the company supported “artistic expression” for creators while also encouraging “employees to disagree openly.”

“Dave Chappelle’s specials are consistently the most-watched comedy specials on Netflix, and have earned many awards, including both an Emmy and a Grammy for Sticks and Stones,” the spokesperson said. “We support artistic expression for our creators. We also encourage our employees to disagree openly.”

[From THR]

“We also encourage our employees to disagree openly…” No they don’t. Netflix already suspended employees for trying to address these issues (Netflix had to reinstate the employees after the news came out). The thing is, I don’t even think that Netflix should have to drop The Closer. It’s clearly driving traffic to Netflix, and I understand that part of the business equation. But there’s another part of the business equation, which is that Netflix’s trans employees and trans-allied employees feel that their voices are not being heard. Serandos sending out dreadful memos claiming platforming transphobia won’t do real-world harm is NOT creating a healthy workplace culture.

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Photos courtesy of Avalon Red and Mathieu Bitton for Netflix.

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17 Responses to “Netflix employees will do a ‘virtual walkout’ to protest Ted Serandos, Chappelle”

  1. Miranda says:

    In Chapelle’s case, I don’t think “TERF” is the correct term to use. He’s definitely trans-exclusionary, but he’s missing the “F” in that acronym. And that’s not exactly new information.

  2. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I too agree everyone has a voice in this and shouldn’t be punished for using that voice. Chappelle can climb into bed with Rowling and traditionally frak each other’s brains on their binary bed of intolerance. And employees or anyone else in the world who want to chime in can stand outside the traditional love shack and hurl their claims of injustice.

    Gratuitous violence on film has certainly left its mark on society, as has drug use, sexual and racial violence, basically anything and everything is fair game at this point. Which imo, is as it should be. Change the channel if you don’t like it. Listen to a different station. Many people seem to be okay with slasher footage but freak the frak out if a bewb pops out, or GOD FORBID, it gets caressed. It’s all askew and subjective anyway.

    But when it comes to stage comedy, I kinda get it, because it’s raw and naked observations if only to illicit laughter. It’s harder to ignore a single person who has unfettered space to spew hateful rhetoric in a comedic manner. There are no distractions. It’s just a different beast, but an effective one in reaching people through laughter or uncomfortable positions. When the audience gets panned at a comedy show, the people clapping are normally nodding their heads in agreement with tears in theirs eyes from laughter. It’s a compelling venue to further thoughts, underline or malign them. Where do we draw the line? Should there be a line?

    • lemontwist says:

      “Where do we draw the line? Should there be a line?”
      This makes me think so much of how men after MeToo are like, “So I can’t even compliment a woman???”

      You draw your own line and if it crosses someone else’s boundary then you make your own choice to understand it or say f-k it.

      Tell your jokes, enjoy your stand-up. Performing ‘self-effacing’ and then punching down has been a tried and true formula in stand-up for decades. But comedy is evolving (thanks to a lot of women) and the time for that other sh-t is running out.

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        Yes, and when enough people choose not to listen, perhaps they’ll disappear, rewrite their comedy or hold fast to what made them rich and famous. Each of these carry diminishing returns so frak ‘em lol.

  3. lemontwist says:

    I don’t see the logic in saying “I don’t even think that Netflix should have to drop The Closer” on one hand and on the other hand acknowledging the words & actions of trans & allied employees about this situation.

    What would be the middle ground?

    Ted Sarandos says: “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm”

    Terra Field says: “Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act. 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.”

    It’s not an employee/employer dispute. It’s a human/dehumanizer disupute.

  4. NCWoman says:

    We need to get over the idea that punching down is artistic expression. Punch sideways or up. Down is just mean and ugly. And if you’re any kind of artist, you have the skills to learn to avoid doing it and make your art even more amazing. Artists Evolve.

  5. Laila says:

    Does this fool of a CEO know that this (excellent) documentary is also on Netflix… http://www.netflix.com/title/81284247? The description is “In this documentary, leading trans creatives and thinkers share heartfelt perspectives and analysis about Hollywood’s impact on the trans community.” <—

  6. MarcelMarcel says:

    2021 is on track to be the deadliest yet for trans and gender non conforming Americans. So far at least 28 people have been murdered most of whom are Black or Latina (according to the HRC).
    If we’re discussing Chapelle’s transphobic special let’s also acknowledge that bigotry against trans people can and does end in violence and murder.
    Marsha P. Johnson’s cause of death is still unknown and her murderers haven’t been brought to justice.
    I find JK Rowling, Netflix and Chapelle using their platforms to perpetuate transmisogyny so disturbing.

  7. MarcelMarcel says:

    2021 is on track to be the deadliest yet for trans and gender non conforming Americans. So far at least 28 people have been murdered most of whom are Black or Latina (according to the HRC).
    If we’re discussing Chapelle’s transphobic special let’s also acknowledge that bigotry against trans people can and does end in violence and murder.
    Marsha P. Johnson’s cause of death is still unknown and her murderers haven’t been brought to justice.
    I find JK Rowling, Netflix and Chapelle using their platforms to perpetuating transmisogyny so disturbing. I admire the Netflix employees who are taking a stand especially since they’re putting their jobs on the line.

  8. souperkay says:

    Netflix shoulda paid him and shelved this special, full stop. Streamers aren’t special, sometimes, things get made that shouldn’t see the light of day. This is one of them. Give Chapelle his money, shelve the special. Imagine if they had made the choice to sit on this even for just a year instead of rushing to put it out and through that distance, could see that it’s a mess. In Netflix’s rush to rely on house-made content, they have let the quality of their product slip.

  9. Kate says:

    So this idiot is saying the impact of fictional depictions of violence is the same as non-fictional rhetoric? Because most people don’t commit violent crimes after watching a violent tv show has nothing to do with how people’s opinions are shaped by listening to a charismatic speaker. That’s the weakest and most willfully obtuse argument I’ve ever heard.

  10. MsGnomer says:

    This CEO is not thinking this through; negligence. Ugh, the poster up thread who suggested that the special be shelved after paying for it has a good idea.

    I remember when Chapelle withdrew from work for mental health issues. So there is a possibility DC is mentally unfit, the ceo doesnt care, and the gift from that utter lack of care is this sh*t storm.

    I stand w the Netflix employees and the queer community.

  11. Normades says:

    Stupid stupid management and pr move. But beyond that how does DC still get platforms? Netflix, snl…just cancel him already.

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