Movies & TV / News

Netflix Reacts To Employee Walkout Over Controversial Dave Chappelle Comedy Special

October 20, 2021 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Dave Chappelle The Closer Netflix

Employees of Netflix held a walkout today over the company’s stance regarding the controversial Dave Chappelle comedy special The Closer.

The special has been the subject of criticism due to Chappelle’s transphobic jokes and comments. At one point in the special, Chappelle says he’s ‘transphobic’ and tells stories of both befriending a trans woman (while later referring to her by the wrong gender) and beating up another. He even defends JK Rowling for her anti-trans comments and declares himself ‘Team TERF’. TERF refers to trans-exclusionary radical feminist, someone who believes that trans women are not women.

As a result, hundreds of Netflix employees have planned a walkout to protest Netflix’s refusal to remove the special. In addition to that, organizers have announced a rally called ‘Stand Up in Solidarity’ at Netflix’s EPIC building in Los Angeles.

Netflix addressed the walkout in a statement, which read: “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.

Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos made the situation worse when he declared through internal memos on October 8, where he said: “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 then sent a notice to all employees that said that Netflix has “a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”

In an interview yesterday, Sarandos admitted he ‘screwed up’ by communicating the company’s stance on the special and by not being more sensitive to employees that were hurt by it. He said that he didn’t think Chappelle’s comments fell into the category of ‘hate speech’ and the special would stay on the streaming service.

Critics of Netflix have suggested that yes, comments like those Chappelle made do translate to problems in the real world. Those critical of the company include comedian Hannah Gadsby and Jacyln Moore, the co-showrunner of Dear White People.

This follows Netflix firing an employee on Friday for leaking financial and viewing data on Chappelle’s most recent specials, Bo Burnham’s Inside and the series Squid Game. The information revealed that Netflix paid more for The Closer ($24.1 million) than Squid Game ($21.4 million), the latter of which became a huge hit and, according to Bloomberg, will bring in nearly $900 million in revenue.