Whistleblower and Transparent creator join hundreds in angry walkout over Dave Chapelle anti-trans comments at Netflix

Streaming giant paid comedian $24.1m for his latest special

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 21 October 2021 00:47
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Netflix Employees Stage Walkout Over Chappelle Special

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Netflix employees staged an angry walk-out amid the controversy caused by Dave Chappelle’s comment on trans and LGBTQ+ people in his comedy special.

More than 100 protesters attended a rally at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters to present a “list of asks” to the streaming giant, including the removal of any imagery of Chapelle from the Netflix office and a new fund to develop trans and non-binary talent.

Critics say that Chappelle made a string of transphobic remarks and jokes in The Closer, including stating that “gender is a fact”.

Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos initially defended the special, for which they reportedly paid $24.1m, to angry employees.

“While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” he wrote in an email obtained by Variety.

“Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking standup comedy – without it causing them to harm others.”

Mr Sarandos later admitted that he had “screwed up” in trying to communicate his views.

His co-chief executive, Reed Hastings, also tried to defend the special on a company message board.

“I do believe that our commitment to artistic expression and pleasing our members is the right long-term choice for Netflix, and that we are on the right side, but only time will tell,” he said.

B Pagels-Minor, the Netflix employee fired last week for allegedly leaking financial information about the comedy special, was among the group of protesters on Wednesday.

“I compiled a series of data, I’m a data person, and I shared it with a lot of people internally,” they told Deadline.

“If they’re going to fire me, they’re going to have to fire a lot of people.”

The creator of Transparent, Joey Soloway, was one of the speakers at the event.

“Trans people are in the middle of a Holocaust,” Soloway told the crowd before adding that: “Misogyny is gender violence.”

They also called for a trans person to get place on “the Netflix f***ing board.”

David Huggard Jr, a contestant known as Eureka! on RuPaul’s Drag Race”, said those who enjoy Chappelle’s special are “laughing in the face of our pain.”

Filmmaker Ashlee Marie Preston, who organised Wednesday’s rally said they had reached out to Chapelle but had been rejected.

During the event a Chapelle supporter carrying a “Dave is funny” sign clashed with protesters as he tried to get to the front.

“We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused,” a Netflix spokesperson said before the walk out.

“We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognise we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

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