Netflix employees have walked off the job to rally for transgender rights outside the company’s Los Angeles offices amid ongoing backlash over comedian Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special.
Netflix staff and transgender activists staged the protest outside the streaming giant’s Los Angeles offices, which also attracted counter-protesters.
Comedian Dave Chappelle’s stand-up special The Closer dropped on Netflix earlier this month.
A Netflix executive later stood by the special, denying Chappelle’s comments incited violence or “directly translated to real-world harm.”
But the demonstrators slammed the company’s response. They say the harmful and transphobic comments perpetuate a culture marginalising and devaluing trans people.
The rally organisers want the company to hire more gender diverse talent and content and take other measures to avoid “platforming transphobia and hate speech”.
“We are here today not because we don’t know how to take a joke,” rally organiser Ashlee Marie Preston told the Associated Press.
“We’re here because we’re concerned that the jokes are taking lives.”
Preston added the walkout is to “push back against harmful content that negatively impacts vulnerable communities.”
“We aim to use this moment to shift the social ecology around what Netflix leadership deems ethical entertainment,” Preston said.
— Alicia Victoria Lozano (@aliciavlozano) October 20, 2021
Netflix boss admits he ‘screwed up’ response to backlash
Earlier this month, Netflix temporarily suspended trans employee Terra Field, who criticised Dave Chappelle’s special in a viral Twitter thread.
Field, as well as two other staffers, reportedly attended an executive meeting they weren’t invited to. However Netflix later reinstated her after finding Field had “no ill intent”.
The company sacked another trans employee who they accused of leaking internal documents to the media, which the worker denied.
Ahead of the walkout, Netflix said the company respected the right of employees to participate in the protest.
“We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused,” Netflix said.
“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’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos earlier stood by the special in a staff memo.
He said, “While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.
“We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence. We don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.”
But he later conceded to Deadline that he’d “screwed up the internal communication”.
“I should’ve made sure to recognise that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made,” he said.
“I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.”
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