Netflix suspends transgender employee amid backlash against Dave Chappelle’s special

CEO Ted Sarandos defended Chappelle’s right to ‘artistic freedom’ in an internal memo sent to employees

Maanya Sachdeva
Wednesday 13 October 2021 11:04
Critics call to cancel Dave Chappelle, Netflix for 'ridiculing trans people'

Netflix has suspended a transgender employee who spoke out against comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special The Closer on Twitter.

The stand-up comedian faced heavy criticism last week after his latest special was released in which he mocked trans people and said he was “team Terf” like JK Rowling.

In response, Netflix software engineer Terra Field called out the special, claiming that it “attacks the trans community, and the very validity of trans-ness”. Field then shared the names of 38 trans persons who were brutally murdered in the US this year.

On Monday (11 October), The Verge reported that Netflix had suspended Field.

The publication reports that the suspension came after the engineer, along with two other employees, tried to attend a director-level meeting they weren’t invited to. Another trans employee is said to have quit over the handling of Chappelle’s special and Field’s subsequent comments.

However, a Netflix spokesperson told The Verge that it was “absolutely untrue” that any employees were suspended for objecting to the show.

The New York Post also reported that the suspension was related to an investigation into a matter not related to Field’s social media activity, citing a source familiar with the incident.

The Independent has contacted Netflix and Field for a comment.

In a memo sent to the staff at Netflix, which was obtained by Variety, CEO Ted Sarandos defended Chappelle’s right to “artistic freedom”.

Sarandos wrote: “Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. His last special Sticks & Stones, also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date.”

He argued that “artistic freedom” in stand-up comedy has a “very different standard of speech” than what is allowed internally within the organisation. Sarandos added that Netflix would not be removing The Closer from the streaming service.

Many on social media came out in support of Field in the aftermath of the incident.

“I stand with Terra Field. Netflix has long-benefited from playing to the queer community in its programming,” one user wrote. “To see their behaviour right now is not only appalling, but a steadfast reminder that corporations don’t see you as people; they see you only as a market.”

Netflix’s Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness and LGBTQ+ rights activist and writer Taylor Ashbrook also condemned the special.

The Closer is expected to be Chappelle’s last special.