Netflix defends Chappelle special in memo, suspends employees
Netflix Inc. co-Chief Executive Officer Ted Sarandos defended the company’s decision to air a controversial Dave Chappelle comedy special featuring trans jokes as “artistic freedom.”
“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,” he wrote in a memo last week obtained Monday by Variety. “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.”
The company on Monday also suspended three employees who crashed an executive meeting last week, including Terra Field, a transgender worker who spoke out against the Chappelle special, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“What we object to is the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of color) and VERY specifically Black trans women,” Field wrote in a series of viral tweets last week.
A Netflix spokesperson told Bloomberg News no employees were suspended for their tweets and that the company encourages open disagreement. Field didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Since its debut last week, Chappelle’s special has drawn criticism for his jokes about gay and transgender people. Chappelle said he was “team TERF” (which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and joked about trans women’s genitals. Transgender writer-producer Jaclyn Moore last week said she would no longer work for the streaming service. Moore was a writer and producer for the Netflix series “Dear White People," which recently concluded.
The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights group dedicated to the empowerment of the Black LGBTQ community, asked Netflix to remove the special, which was shot in August in Detroit, from the platform.
Sarandos in the memo said Netflix had no plans to do that. The comedian’s offerings are among its most popular, Sarandos wrote. “His last special ‘Sticks & Stones,’ also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date.”
Chapelle was reportedly paid $60 million for a three special deal, according to Business Insider. “The Closer” is his sixth with the streaming network.