A Netflix engineer critical on social media about trans remarks Dave Chappelle made in his controversial stand-up special The Closer has been suspended by the streamer as co-CEO Ted Sarandos declares the company doesn't believe the GLAAD-slammed special crosses "the line on hate."
Claiming the timely move had nothing to do with Field throwing shade on one of the streamer's biggest draws, Netflix on Monday (which is National Coming Out Day), issued a bland statement claiming "it is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show." A spokesperson went on to say: "Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so."
In almost the same breath, he added: "This is the kindness conspiracy." At a screening of his Untitled documentary at the Hollywood Bowl on October 7, Chappelle weaved in and out of the matter. "If this is what being canceled is about, I love it," the comedian said onstage in front of the SRO venue after the conclusion of the film directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar.
We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line. Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.
In the arena that truly matters to the streamer's execs, Netflix shares are flat today at around $632 in light trading due to the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day holiday. The company will report its third-quarter earnings next week. The stock has been touching all-time highs in recent sessions, reaching as high as $646.84.
Here is Sarandos' memo from Friday:
Rowling’s social media posts of last year about the transgender community, Chappelle spends most of the last third of his sixth — and perhaps final for a while — special on the streamer taking one dig after another at the aforementioned communities and the strides they have made legally and culturally in recent years. Labeling himself “Team TERF!” (the acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist) in reference to J.K.
Almost simultaneously with Sarandos' memo going public Monday, staffer Terra Field, who lamented in an October 6 tweet that Netflix allowed The Closer to attack "the trans community, and the very validity of transness," has been suspended.
On the other hand, Field, who may or may not have joined a high-level meeting last week along with two other employees that the engineer wasn't supposed to attend, is taking the high road on social media:
So we’re proud of titles like Sex Education, Young Royals, Control Z and Disclosure. In terms of our commitment to inclusion, we’re working hard to ensure more people see their lives reflected on screen and that under-represented communities are not defined by the single story. Externally, particularly in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace.
former Dear White People co-showrunner Jaclyn Moore, who transitioned during the pandemic, took to Twitter to say she was "done" with Netflix "as long as they continue to put out and profit from blatantly and dangerously transphobic content." Since the special debuted on October 5. Chappelle cited cancel culture in response to the outcry from GLAAD and other civil rights groups over the comedian's fierce remarks about the trans and LGBTQ+ communities in The Closer.
I wanted to follow up on The Closer – Dave Chappelle’s latest special – as several of you have reached out following QBR asking what to say to your teams. It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues, so I wanted to give you some additional context. You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.
"You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do," Sarandos wrote in a memo (read it in full below) that was sent to employees Friday following a top-tier staff meeting.
"I am not telling another joke about you until we are both sure that we are laughing together," Chappelle says right near the end of The Closer in a personal address to the trans and LBGTQ+ communities. "All I ask from your community – with all humility – will you please stop punching down on my people?"
"It's all about the optics and the relationships — typical Hollywood." "I can only assume Ted did this for preemptive damage control if some big names call out the company and Chappelle," a well-placed individual at the streamer tells Deadline.
Although the Mark Twain Prize winner does speak emotionally in The Closer about his friendship with now-deceased transgender comedian Daphne Dorman, much of his performance is centered on the genitalia of trans women and the apparent rights one oppressed group in America has gained over another. "In our country, you can shoot and kill a [n-word], but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings," the comedian says, in reference to a 2018 incident involving rapper DaBaby — whom Chappelle defends at some length in the special — at a Walmart in North Carolina that saw another man shot to death.
Clearly that's the sentiment Sarandos is hoping permeates.
“Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community," he said in a statement. National Black Justice Coalition executive director David Johns also proclaimed last week that Netflix should be done with The Closer.
As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful, like Cuties, 365 Days, 13 Reasons Why, or My Unorthodox Life. His last special, Sticks & Stones, also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest, and most award winning stand-up special to date. Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him.
Someone I chatted with on Grindr years ago just messaged me to tell me they’re proud of me for standing up for myself 😂. True allyship right there.
— Terra Field (@RainofTerra) October 11, 2021
I just want to say I appreciate everyone’s support. You’re all the best, especially when things are difficult.
— Terra Field (@RainofTerra) October 11, 2021
Today’s conversation on Entertain the World was timely. We all bring different values and perspectives so thank you for being part of the conversation as it’s important we’re clear about our operating principles. These are hard and uncomfortable issues.