Following Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ continued defence of the anti-trans sentiments in comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special, The Closer, at least 1,000 incensed employees are now reportedly planning to participate in a virtual work stoppage on Oct. 20.
For nearly a week now, trans and trans-allied staffers have been voicing concerns over Chappelle’s ridicule of the LGBTQ community throughout the special, during which he self-identifies as a TERF (or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”) and repeatedly dismisses the concept of a gender identity altogether. But in the wake of heated criticisms from both employees and customers, Netflix execs have made the bizarre decision to double down on their defence of the special, issuing a series of increasingly tone-deaf memos to staff.
In the most recent of these memos, a copy of which was obtained by Variety, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos dismisses the trans allies who had claimed that Chappelle’s comments had the potential to instigate real-life violence against the community, arguing that “while some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
“The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last 30 years, especially with first-party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries,” Sarandos wrote. “Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse — or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy — without it causing them to harm others.”
As anyone who has ever picked up a book, read a newspaper article, or simply existed outside in the real world for more than five seconds knows, media representation — and particularly the stereotypes and tropes about the trans individuals that have proliferated throughout films and TV shows — have the direct potential to shape attitudes about the LGBTQ community, something GLAAD acknowledged in a Monday statement to Deadline:
Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that.
While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards.
On Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to one Netflix employee who confirmed that those comments had directly inspired the trans employee resource group at Netflix to organise support for the walkout, during which employees will halt their work and instead focus their energy on providing support and resources for the trans community and its affiliated charities.
“The memo was very disrespectful,” the staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. “It didn’t invite a robust conversation about this hard topic, and that’s normally how things go.”
Although it’s unclear how much of a punch a “virtual work stoppage” actually packs, what’s clear is that Netflix employees are standing in solidarity with their trans colleagues and the community writ large, and that sends a message in and of itself.