The streaming giant’s stand by special that some employees said was offensive to the transgender community; ‘There will always be content on Netflix that some people believe is harmful’
In “The Closer”, which was released last week and is currently one of the most-watched shows on the service in the US, Mr Chappell said “gender is a fact” and that he referred to as “TERF”. Recognized in the U.S., an acronym stands for “Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist”. Mr Chappell said he is not a favorite of the trans community, then added, “Someone said to me, ‘They’re after you, Dave,’ and I said, ‘One they or many theirs?’ “
A day after the special’s release, Tera Fields, a Netflix software engineer who is transgender, criticized the show on Twitter, saying that Mr Chappell attacked “the trans community, and the very legitimacy of transness”. The tweets went viral and there was a backlash inside the streaming giant on the special. Groups including LGBTQ-rights advocacy group GLAAD spoke out against the show, and the National Black Justice Coalition asked Netflix to remove the special from its platform.
On Monday, Mr Sarandos issued a companywide email defending the special and said the service would not pull it down. Mr Sarandos said the company works hard to support creative freedom and that means “there will always be content on Netflix that some people believe is harmful.” He also said that he does not think that particulars incite hatred or violence. Mr Chappell has a longstanding relationship with Netflix, which has created several specials for the streaming service. In the end credits of “The Closer” there is a picture of Messrs. Chappelle and Sarandos laughing together.
Addressing the criticism during an event in Hollywood last week, Mr Chappell said, “If it’s going to be cancelled, I love it.”
Netflix said Ms Fields was not punished for her tweets, but she and two other employees at Netflix got into hot water when they unapproved an online meeting of senior Netflix executives last week.
According to Netflix, all three were suspended but were immediately reinstated. Ms Fields said Netflix told her there appeared to be no ulterior motives on her part and that she was unaware that the meeting was only for senior company employees, according to a tweet from Ms Fields. Netflix confirmed that account.
Netflix stands in contrast to traditional studios and networks, where it’s rare for employees to question content decisions—much less on social media to negatively criticize those choices. At Netflix, radical clarity and transparency are encouraged within company hallways and meetings.
Among programmers, Netflix stands out for carrying shows featuring transgender actors, including “Sense 8,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Sex Education” and “Control Z.” It also has a development deal with transgender producer Janet Mock.
This isn’t the first time a Chappelle special has sparked anger inside Netflix. According to people familiar with the matter, his previous stand-up special, “Sticks and Stones”, which also included commentary on the LGBTQ community, was found objectionable by some within the company.
Last year, a sex-filled film called “365 Days”, which was popular on stage, made some inside the company uncomfortable, as did the movie “Cutties”, which was accused of sexually abusing young girls. The allegation was made, the people said.
Joe Flint at [email protected]