Hundreds of Netflix employees went ahead with the planned walkout to protest the company’s handling of Dave Chappelle’s special The Closer on Wednesday morning. Chappelle’s comments about the transgender community in the special have been called out as transphobic and bigoted. Several people who weren’t Netflix employees also joined the walkout called ‘Stand-Up in Solidarity’ which took place outside the streaming giant’s Los Angeles office. People who were working remotely showed their support by shutting off their laptops at noon.
The veteran comedian came under fire for expressing sympathy with JK Rowling, who has been accused of making transphobic comments many times in the past, and calling himself part of “Team TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) during his latest special.
The protestors held up signs that read, “Hey Netflix: Do Better” and “Transphobia Is Not a Joke,” calling for the streaming service to launch more trans and non-binary artists on their platform. The employees who participated want Netflix to “adopt measures to avoid future instances of platforming transphobia and hate speech,” according to a letter they released. They want Netflix to address a list of demands in the categories of content investment, employee relations and safety, and harm reduction.
“We’re up against the emergence of hate economy,” said Ashlee Marie Preston, one of the organisers of the walkout. “And there is this manipulation of algorithmic science that distorts the way that we perceive ourselves and others. And I think that companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Instagram, they play into it, and they monetise on it. And so I think that this is important to show up today.”
Protesters also came face to face with Chappelle’s fans outside the Netflix building who were chanting anti-trans slogans like “self-love, not surgery,” referring to gender reassignment procedures.
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ stance on the special was also not well received when he sent out an internal memo on 11 October stating that the special would not be taken down from their catalogue as, “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” However, Sarandos later told Variety in an interview that he screwed up when it came to how he has handled criticism of the special. It’s important to note that despite the “culture wars” debate around the special, none of the demands involve it being removed from the platform.
A number of Netflix stars including Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye and Mason Alexander Park of Cowboy Bebop expressed their solidarity in a video made for the walkout, which also featured other Hollywood stars and trans rights advocates such as Angelica Ross, Jameela Jamil, Kate Bornstein, Our Lady J, Sara Ramirez, Peppermint and Colton Haynes. Other celebrities have also voiced their support for the walkout on social media including Elliot Page, Hannah Gadsby and Lilly Wachowski.
In response to the backlash, Chappelle said recently said, “If this is what being cancelled is about, I love it.”