Rejecting comments made by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos in defense of Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, The Closer, a number of the streaming platforms transgender employees are planning a company-wide walkout on October 20th.
In the wake of the release of the new special—which features incendiary commentary on the LGBTQ+ community and Chappelle’s own proclamation that he identifies as a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”— The Verge obtained an internal organizing message posted by a leader of Netflix’s trans employee resource group that takes the platform to task for failing to meet its mission of creating inclusive, universally enjoyable content.
“Trans Lives Matter. Trans Rights Matter. And 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 ERG message reads in part. “We can and must do better!”
Stirrings of an imminent walkout come just one day after it was reported that Netflix had suspended three employees for dropping in on a meeting without authorization during the platform’s two-day-long quarterly business review. At the event, Sarandos briefed the company’s top 500 employees on how they should respond to employees and talent expressing concerns over Chappelle’s remarks. One of the employees in question—the trans and queer-identifying Terra Field, who works as a senior software engineer for the company—reported that as of Tuesday night, she had been reinstated at the company.
“Netflix has reinstated me after finding that there was no ill-intent in my attending the QBR meeting,” Field wrote in a Tuesday evening tweet. “I’ve included the statement I requested below. I’m going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I’m at. At the very least, I feel vindicated.”
Prior to being reinstated, Field had unspooled the damaging implications of Chappelle’s commentary in a now-viral Twitter thread, laying out the ways the “jokes” could be interpreted as directly harmful to the transgender community.
“Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act,” Field wrote in the series of tweets. “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.”
Despite the fact that Chappelle’s anti-trans sentiments drew fierce criticisms online in the wake of the special’s release, Sarandos had seemingly fanned the flames of outrage with an internal memo that Variety obtained a copy of.
“Chapelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long-standing deal with him,” Sarandos wrote to Netflix staffers. “His last special “Sticks & Stones,” also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date.”
“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.
The organizing message posted by Netflix’s trans ERG group seemed to specifically take issue with the way that some of the company’s corporate communications seemed to imply that the streamer’s LGBTQ-identifying employees were taking a short-sighted view of the controversy.
“As we’ve discussed through Slack, email, text, and everything in between our leadership has shown us they do not uphold the values to which we are held,” the message reads. “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.”