Many applauded Netflix for standing by Dave Chappelle’s side amid demands to have his latest comedy special The Closer pulled from the streaming platform. But internally, the company is going through it.
Netflix employees “raised concerns about” Chappelle’s special days before it even aired, Bloomberg News reports. Staffers are said to have warned Netflix executives that some of Chappelle’s jokes about gender-neutral pronouns and the genitalia of transgender people would produce damaging results on the public.
But when the company’s leaders, including global head of TV Bela Bajaria and co-Chief Executive Officer Ted Sarandos, decided that the special didn’t cross the line, the decision sparked what’s being considered the biggest internal dispute in Netflix’s history.
The labor woes only worsened when the streaming service suspended three employees who attempted to attend a “director-level meeting” to express their gripes over the special, MIC reports. Among those suspended included trans software engineer Terra Field.
Following the special’s premiere last week, Field posted a since-deleted viral tweet accusing Chappelle of showing discrimination towards the trans community.
I work at @netflix. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness – all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups. You’re going to hear a lot of talk about “offense”.
We are not offended
— Terra Field (@RainofTerra) October 7, 2021
Now, Netflix is planning an internal event with trans activist Alok Vaid-Menon while employees are mapping out a walkout scheduled on Oct. 20. A Netflix spokesperson says the company supports the artistic expression from its creators and also encourages team members to openly discuss their disagreements.
While the employees aren’t asking Netflix to remove their special, they are calling for support for more diverse storytellers with different viewpoints. Netflix has edited or removed programming in response to employee or public concerns in the past.
In 2020, the sketch series Little Britain was removed over its use of blackface. The hit series 13 Reasons Why was amended to include trigger warnings and suicide prevention resources due to the show’s focus on teen suicide. Earlier this month, Netflix edited the latest hit series Squid Game to shield a phone number from harassment.
But despite all the public scrutiny, the streaming platform is under over the Chappelle special, they’re standing beside him. Chappelle’s specials are among the most popular on Netflix. The platform has since reinstated the suspended employees, but plans for the walkout remain ongoing.