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NEWS & ANALYSIS

Netflix CEO Stands Strong on Defense of Chappelle Special Amid News of Transgender Employee Walkout


Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos stood strong on the network’s defense of Dave Chappelle following complaints from the company’s transgender employees. 

If you aren’t familiar with the story, Sarandos sent a memo to Netflix managers last week detailing the platform’s decision to air the special and instructing supervisors on how to handle employees who complained about the comedian’s content. 

Transgender Netflix employees in particular were upset about the special, which includes a bit about transgenders and biological reality. 

“Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate,” he said last week. “We don’t allow titles that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe ‘The Closer’ crosses that line. 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.” 

Indeed, Chappelle’s special, ‘The Closer,’ became available to Netflix subscribers earlier this month. Three Netflix employees, including one outspoken transgender Cheppelle critic, allegedly crashed an executive phone call where Sarandos discussed the memo with managers. They were suspended pending an investigation, but reinstated less than 24 hours later, the Daily Wire reports. 

Sarandos issued a second memo doubling down on his defense. 

“We know a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix,” he wrote. 

“With ‘The Closer,’ we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real-world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence, etc.),” he added. “Last year, we heard similar concerns about ‘365 Days’ and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” 

“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,” he continued. “Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without causing them to harm others.” 

Transgender employees are expected to conduct a walk-out at Netflix on October 20th to protest the networks decision.