Tensions are rising inside Netflix Inc. over a Dave Chappelle stand-up special that some employees said was offensive to the transgender community, the latest clash between the streaming giant’s radical-candor culture and its embrace of creative freedom.
A Netflix transgender-employee group is encouraging staff to stage a walkout next Wednesday to protest Co-Chief Executive and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos’s recent defense of Chappelle’s special. The plans for a walkout were earlier reported by the Verge and confirmed by Netflix (NAS:NFLX) .
In “The Closer,” which was released last week and is currently among the most-watched programs on the service in the U.S., Chappelle said “gender is a fact” and said he identified as a “TERF,” an acronym that stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” Chappelle said he isn’t a favorite of the trans community, then added, “Someone told me, ‘They after you, Dave,’ and I said, ‘One they or many theys?’ ”
A day after the special’s release, Terra Field, a Netflix software engineer who is transgender, criticized the show on Twitter, saying Chappelle attacked “the trans community, and the very validity of transness.” The tweets went viral and led to a backlash inside the streaming giant over the special. Groups including LGBTQ-rights advocacy group GLAAD spoke up against the show, and the National Black Justice Coalition asked for Netflix to take the special off its platform.
On Monday, Sarandos issued a companywide email defending the special and saying the service wouldn’t pull it down. Sarandos said the company works hard to support creative freedom and this means “there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.” He also said he didn’t think the special incites hate or violence. Chappelle has a longstanding relationship with Netflix, having made multiple specials for the streaming service. In the end credits of “The Closer,” there is a picture of Chappelle and Sarandos laughing together.
Also popular on WSJ.com: