Netflix Embroiled in Controversy Over Dave Chappelle’s Anti-Trans Jokes

The comedian's latest special has been condemned by GLAAD, LGBTQ celebrities, and even trans employees of Netflix.

It’s been a rough few weeks for queer and trans employees of Netflix.

The streaming giant has faced sustained backlash from LGBTQ celebrities, advocacy groups, and employees after supporting The Closer, the latest comedy special from provocateur Dave Chappelle. In the stand-up set, which premiered on October 5, Chappelle self-identifies as a member of “Team TERF [trans exclusionary radical feminist],” states that “gender is a fact,” and aligns himself with Harry Potter author JK Rowling, whose history of transphobic comments is well-documented.

Three days after The Closer debuted, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos sent an internal memo defending the special and refusing to take it down, Variety and The Verge reported on Monday (October 11).

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

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

Sarandos added that Chappelle’s previous show — 2019’s Sticks & Stones, which also features anti-LGBTQ jokes, including a bit mocking the letters of the acronym for the community — is the streamer’s “most watched, stickiest, and most award winning stand-up special to date.”

“We have to acknowledge that Netflix and Dave Chappelle are willing to put profits over the health and safety of transgender people,” tweeted transgender activist and TransLashMedia creator Imara Jones. “It’s a choice on their part to render other human beings as expendable to the bottom line.”

But wait, there’s more. Also on Monday, Netflix suspended transgender employee Terra Field, a software engineer who had spoken out against Chappelle’s harmful rhetoric on Twitter, for attempting to attend a director-level meeting she was not invited to. Two other trans employees were reported suspended too. Although a rep for the company told The Verge Field was not suspended for tweeting, the timing sparked speculation on social media.

On Tuesday (October 12), Field confirmed she was reinstated. Still, a trans employee resource group at Netflix is reportedly orchestrating a company-wide walkout for next Wednesday (October 20) to protest Sarandos’s comments.

“We stand with the trans employees, Black LGBTQ employees, and everyone at Netflix supporting them, speaking out, and calling for change,” GLAAD tweeted in response to news of the October 20 walkout.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
@_sammanzella