Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Special Prompts Netflix Employees To Stage A Walkout In Protest

Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Special Controversy Prompts Netflix Employees To Stage A Walkout In Protest

The controversy over Dave Chappelle’s The Closer comedy special is still affecting Netflix.

Today (Wednesday, Oct. 20th) some employees gathered on Vine Street to call for accountability and reform.

The comedy special premiered on Oct. 5th and has garnered lots of negative attention and backlash. Many felt like the comedian made transphobic and other insensitive remarks. The Netflix CEO, Ted Sarandos, first publicly supported Dave Chappelle amid rumors that trans employees and allies were planning the walkout.

At 10 am today (Wednesday, Oct 20th) the employees went forward with the walkout, and the members of the Netflix ERG group, Trans*, drafted a list of demands. Reportedly, the list is meant to aid in cultivating more transgender and nonbinary talent in the workplace. They want to have representation of trans and nonbinary talent in front and behind the camera as well.


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The document also requests that the 48-year-old’s image be removed from their workplace, like posters and murals, and that Netflix acknowledge the harm the special has allegedly caused the trans community.  They’ve also asked that there be a warning added to the beginning of the comedy special that says,

“contains transphobic language, misogyny, homophobia, and hate speech.”

Following the premiere of the controversial comedy special, Netflix senior software engineer, Terra Field, explained why it’s important for Netflix to be held accountable. In an article she explains how she feels Dave Chappelle isn’t the root cause of the issue. She wrote,

“Dave is not, and has never been, the cause of this problem — he is a symptom of it. That Dave believes the things he says and can say them with relative impunity is a result of the culture we live in: a culture that marginalizes and devalues trans people. He contributes to that culture in a very real way, but at least he isn’t out there bragging about how many LGBTQ+ allyship awards he has won while he is doing it.”

Terra Field also responded to Netflix CEO, Ted Sarandos, when he supported Dave and said,

“content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.

She wrote,

“When a company like Netflix says something like, ‘We do not believe this content is harmful to the transgender community,’ you can be virtually certain that not a single trans person was involved in that decision. And how are we supposed to speak up for ourselves if we aren’t in the room? And how are Black trans women supposed to speak up for themselves if the company doesn’t employ any (that our ERG is aware of)?”

Sarandos has since released a new statement and told Variety: 

“Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication. I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways. First and foremost, I should have led with a lot more humanity. Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn’t do that. That was uncharacteristic for me, and it was moving fast and we were trying to answer some really specific questions that were floating. We landed with some things that were much more blanket and matter-of-fact that are not at all accurate.

Of course storytelling has real impact in the real world. I reiterate that because it’s why I work here, it’s why we do what we do. That impact can be hugely positive, and it can be quite negative. So, I would have been better in that communication. They were joining a conversation already in progress, but out of context. But that happens, internal emails go out. In all my communications I should lean into the humanity up front and not make a blanket statement that could land very differently than it was intended.”

What are your thoughts on the comedy special controversy and the Netflix walkout? Let us know in the comments.


Authored by: Briana Gabrielle