A few of Netflix’s top stars have filmed a video call for a rally to support a planned walkout by trans employees following the release of Dave Chappelle’s latest special which has been panned as transphobic.
Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, Jameela Jamil (The Good Place), Eureka O’Hara (RuPaul’s Drag Race) and Angelica Ross (Pose) are lending their voices to push for more inclusive and non-discriminatory content on the platform in the wake of the controversy surrounding Chappelle’s new special The Closer.
The rally, organised by trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston and dubbed “Stand Up For Solidarity,” will take place at Netflix’s EPIC building in Hollywood on Wednesday (20 October) at 10.30am EST.
The event will kick off the trans employees’ walkout in protest of co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ continued defense of Chappelle and his “artistic freedom.”
Ahead of the scheduled walkout, the resource group shared a list of “firm asks” that will be presented to Sarandos. The list, obtained by The Verge, includes the creation of a fund specifically for the development of trans and non-binary talent, and recruiting trans people for various leadership roles.
The walkout will take place five days after Netflix fired a leader of the trans employee resource group for reportedly leaking confidential metrics related to the Chappelle special. These included how much Netflix paid for the special as well as how many people it reached — data that Netflix has always guarded fiercely.
A Netflix spokesperson confirmed the news to The Verge, saying it was important to preserve the company’s “culture of trust and transparency”.
According to an Instagram post by Ms Preston, creators, grassroots organisers, public figures and supporters spanning multiple communities will join forces at the rally to “underscore the importance of responsible content offerings that prioritise the safety and dignity of all marginalised communities.”
Sarandos first defended the Chappelle special in a staff memo dated 8 October, saying that “artistic freedom” in stand-up comedy allowed for “a very different standard of speech” than what was acceptable internally at the company.
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He also reiterated that the special will continue to be available on the platform, even if some talent “may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days.”
Chappelle faced heavy criticism after his latest special was released in which he said he was “team Terf (trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” defending Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
He said: “They canceled JK Rowling – my God. Effectually she said gender was fact, the trans community got mad as s**t, they started calling her a Terf … I’m team Terf.”
In a 2019 tweet, Rowling said “sex is real” in defense of Maya Forstater, a tax specialist whose contract was not renewed because of “offensive” tweets such as “men cannot change into women”.
Netflix software engineer Terra Field, who identifies as a trans woman, was among those who called out the streaming service for attacking the “very validity of trans-ness.” Field, along with two other employees, was suspended shortly after, but Netflix denied that the suspension was linked to her social media activity.
The three employees were later reinstated.
In a second staff email sent on 12 October, the top Netflix executive likened the backlash to The Closer to the streamer’s controversial film 365 Days in that neither of the two would cause any “real-world harm.”
Sarandos wrote: “While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
Comedian Hannah Gadsby, actors Channing Tatum, and Sara Ramirez are among those who have criticised Chappelle and Netflix for the special.
Gadsby, whose own special Douglas is available for streaming on Netflix, called the company an “amoral, algorithmic cult” amid the Chappelle row.
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