The controversy surrounding Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special The Closer, in which the comic made remarks disparaging the trans community, intensified this morning as hundreds of activists and allies rallied in support of a walkout by the streaming giant’s employees. The list of allies included the most notable trans star on Netflix: Umbrella Academy superhero Elliot Page.
I stand with the trans, nonbinary, and BIPOC employees at Netflix fighting for more and better trans stories and a more inclusive workplace #NetflixWalkout
Employees are staging the walkout to pressure the company to adopt measures in the areas of “content investment, employee relations and safety, and harm reduction,” according to flirthwith poradnik the company’s trans employee resource group, Trans*.
These measures are meant to avoid future instances of promoting misinformation about the trans and nonbinary community, which activists say have real-life consequences for trans youth – despite an assertion to the contrary by company co-CEO Ted Sarandos. As Ashlee Marie Preston, one of the architects of #NetflixWalkout, explained in a series of tweets:
We all know how great it can be, & that it’s not there yet
We’re moving the rally to better accommodate attendees.?? There will be point people at the other site to redirect people to the other site-which is a 2 minute drive or 6 minute walk away from the original location. We look forward to being in community w/ you. #NetflixWalkout
Hours before the planned walkout, Netflix issued a statement in support of the protest action. “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused,” the company 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.”
Ahead of the walkout, celebrities and activists – including Preston, Jonathan Van Ness, Angelica Ross, Jameela Jamil, Mason Alexander Park, Kate Bornstein, Our Lady J, Sara Ramirez, Peppermint and Colton Haynes – have vocalized their support.
“We aren’t fighting WITH Netflix. We’re fighting FOR Netflix,” Gabrielle Korn, leader of Netflix’s LGBTQ social media accounts, Most, wrote on Twitter. “ It says so in our culture memo. Recently it feels like the plot has been lost, like leadership thinks we’re already as good as we can be. Clearly that’s untrue.”
We aren’t fighting WITH Netflix. We’re fighting FOR Netflix. It says so in our culture memo. Recently it feels like the plot has been lost, like leadership thinks we’re already as good as we can be. Clearly that’s untrue
“Netflix needs better trans representation at every level, in front of the camera and behind it, within the halls of our offices, in leadership positions and creative positions,” added Korn. “We won’t stop fighting for it until we get there.”
The statement followed Sarandos’s remarks late Tuesday in which he said he “screwed up” his messaging to employees but still insisted he stood by Chappelle and the content of The Closer
Terra Field – one of three employees suspended for reportedly “crashing a meeting of its top executives” in protest (they were later reinstated and an internal investigation found “no ill intent” on Field’s part) – spoke about the issue in a blog posted to Medium.
“Dave is not, and has never been, the cause of this problem – he is a symptom of it,” Field wrote. “When a company like Netflix says something like, ‘We do not believe this content is harmful to the transgender community,’ you can be virtually certain that not a single trans person was involved in that decision. And how are we supposed to speak up for ourselves if we aren’t in the room? And how are Black trans women supposed to speak up for themselves if the company doesn’t employ any (that our ERG is aware of)?”