With Netflix’s refusal to remove Dave Chappelle’s special The Closer from its platform, and the company’s suspension of three employees for later intruding on an executive meeting, Netflix’s transgender employees have now planned an October 20 walkout in protest.
“Trans Lives Matter. Trans Rights Matter,” wrote one leader of Netflix’s trans employee resource group to the members, per The Verge. “And as an organization, Netflix has continually failed to show deep care in our mission to Entertain the World by repeatedly releasing content that harms the Trans community and continually failing to create content that represents and uplifts Trans content. We can and must do better!”
Terra Field, a senior software engineer for Netflix, was one of the three persons suspended for attending the company’s quarterly business review without invitation. It was first alleged that she and others were disciplined for publicly tweeting their disapproval of Chappelle’s special and support it received from Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos.
The company denied that her social media post was the reason for the action, and it summarily reversed the decision for her and her coworkers. “Netflix has reinstated me after finding that there was no ill-intent in my attending the QBR meeting,” Field admitted on Twitter. “I’m going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I’m at. At the very least, I feel vindicated.” However, that did not satisfy the company’s queer community, and the walkout is now set for next Wednesday.
For his part, Sarandos has dug in his heels and cited “artistic freedom” as to why the show must go on. “With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real-world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence, etc.),” he said in a company-wide email per Variety.
“Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women,” Sarandos’ internal memo continued. He highlighted the success of Chappelle’s previous Netflix special, Sticks and Stones, which also contained jokes that were found offensive by some members of the queer community. “While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm… Adults can watch violence, assault, and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others.”
However, the nonprofit GLAAD doesn’t agree. “[F]ilm and TV have also been filled with stereotypes and misinformation about [the queer community] for decades,” the organization said to NBC News, “leading to real-world harm, especially for trans people and LGBTQ people of color.”
Sarandos’ email showed that he will not be swayed, though, and the streaming service will keep carrying programs that some fans will enjoy while other fans don’t. “Our hope is that you can be hugely inspired by entertaining the world, while also living with titles you strongly believe have no place on Netflix,” the memo concluded. “This will not be the last title that causes some of you to wonder if you can still love Netflix. I sincerely hope that you can.”