Netflix turned away a transsexual employee who pointed out transphobic comments made by presenter Dave Chappelle in The Closer, his latest comedy special released by the streaming service. Engineer Tara Fied, a trans woman, went public with a Twitter thread that went viral about how the comedian attacks trans people and the very meaning of what it means to be transsexual. In the special, Chapelle says the LGBTQ+ community has become “too sensitive”.
The Closer aired on October 5th, and at the moment it has good reviews on the expert review site IMDb. But Chappelle, who is known for recording successful stand-ups for Netflix, has come under criticism from streaming officials for comments deemed transphobic.
The day after the stand-up launch, Netflix software engineer Tara Fied wrote that the comedian “attacks the trans community” and the very meaning of “being trans” in his special. The employee’s Twitter thread it went viral and provoked a debate about freedom of expression and culture of cancellation.
Netflix decided to oust Fied and two other employees who tried to attend an executive meeting to which they were not invited. In addition to the suspension, another trans employee resigned. The reason would be Netflix’s management of Fied’s situation and the release of Chappelle’s special.
To The Verge, the streaming service claimed that allegations that the trans engineer had been turned away by her tweet were absurd. “It is absolutely false that we have suspended any employee who has tweeted about the show. [The Closer]” said a spokesman. “Our employees are encouraged to openly speak out, and we support their right to do so.”
Ted Sarandos, CEO of Netflix, advocates special
Dave Chappelle’s special caused an internal crisis within Netflix. Soon after the program’s launch, some employees began to question whether transsexuals participated in airing the stand-up, as well as the line drawn by Netflix to distinguish between transphobic comments and comedy.
In a question-and-answer document, a person working at Netflix says the studio is “providing, time and again, the platform for content that is toxic to the trans community.” The note goes on to read:
“These decisions have a material impact on our business, with our current employees and talents refusing to work with us. What is our plan and how are we going to fix this situation specifically?”
On Friday, October 8th, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos answered this question in an internal email that was obtained by The Verge.
In the letter to employees, Sarandos says he regrets the fact that colleagues at Netflix have been offended by Dave Chappelle’s special. However, the president of streaming should not overthrow The Closer from the catalogue. “We are aware that some of our employees may try to get help from others in the coming days to try to take the show off the air, something we will not do,” said the executive.
Sarantos also said in the internal email that The Closer doesn’t break the fine line between comedy and hate speech:
“Many of you asked when we set a limit on what hate is. We do not allow works that are created to incite hatred or violence on Netflix, and we believe that The Closer does not exceed this limit. However, I recognize that distinguishing between commentary and offense is difficult, especially with stand-up comedies, which exist to break taboos. Some people believe that stand-up art means having a malicious intent, but our members like it, and it’s an important part of the content we offer.”
Film director on trans image rebate Netflix
Sarandos goes on to say that Netflix’s commitment to inclusion is a reflection of some of the series available in the catalog, such as the popular one Sex Education, and the documentary Disclosure, which portrays the impact of the Hollywood industry on the image of trans people. But the director of the work said that streaming rented the doc for half the amount that was used in production.
It wasn’t enough to be rebuffed by the director of the documentary on trans image in Hollywood, an industry of which Netflix is a part, an insider told the The Verge who hadn’t been convinced by Ted Sarandos’s email. “There is no ‘carbon offset’ for intolerance,” said the employee.
Sarandos also defends the special by the numbers: the executive says that Dave Chappelle’s previous stand-up produced by Netflix, Sticks & Stones, is the “most watched, controversial and awarded so far”.
Dave Chappelle and Netflix have a long-standing relationship. In 2016, the comedian signed a contract to produce three exclusive specials for the streaming service. Four years later, the company took down the Chappelle Show at Dave’s request — he was reinstated in 2021, when the author’s fight with the Comedy Central cooled down.
Although his last specials have been the subject of controversy, the The Closer is the one getting the toughest response. GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) wrote that Dave Chappelle’s brand had become synonymous with offending “gays, lesbians and other marginalized communities.” Speaking to the magazine Variety, the civil entity National Coalition of Black Justice (NJBC) asked for the immediate withdrawal of the stand-up.
With information: The Verge