LOS ANGELES - Hundreds of Netflix employees and their supporters staged a walkout Wednesday in protest of the streaming service's distribution of a Dave Chappelle comedy special in which the comedian makes a series of trans-phobic remarks.
In the special, Chappelle reportedly ridicules the LGBTQ+ community and repeatedly dismisses the concept of gender identity altogether. Critics say the new special is offensive to transgender people and has the potential to instigate real-life violence.
"We're here to speak directly to Netflix," transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston said at the rally. "We tried to speak to Dave Chappelle, he was not having the conversation. So now we're here to communicate directly with the people who sign the checks, and also to let Netflix know that we're not going away."
Organizers said they wanted to present Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos with a series of employee demands, which included the creation of a fund to help develop trans and nonbinary talent, recruitment of trans executives for leadership roles and the placement of disclaimers on any potentially harmful content on the streaming service. Organizers also said they wanted the streaming service agree to release more content reflective of the LGBTQ community.
Despite the heated criticism, Netflix officials are standing behind the special, claiming that it’s not meant to cause harm.
In a memo sent out to Netflix employees by Co-CEO Ted Sarandos, which was obtained by Variety, Sarandos said that Netflix's goal is to "entertain the world, which means programming for a diversity of tastes."
"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.) Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm," Sarandos wrote.
"Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others," he continued.
Since Netflix employees have been working remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it's unclear how big the impact of the "virtual work stoppage" will actually have.
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