Netflix has suspended a transgender employee who criticized comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special The Closer.
Chappelle has been heavily criticized for a number of jokes in the special, which released on Oct. 5, including saying he was “team TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) like author JK Rowling and calling gender “a fact.”
“Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth,” Chappelle said. “That is a fact.”
He also claimed to have punched a butch lesbian woman and said he doesn’t respect “newer gays,” calling them “too sensitive, too brittle.”
Chappelle also commented on the controversy surrounding rapper DaBaby and his homophobic comments about HIV and gay people. Chappelle said the rapper had “punched the LBGTQ community right in the AIDS.”
He noted that DaBaby had once been involved in a fatal shooting in a Walmart in 2018, but without the same career fallout as his HIV comments.
“Nothing bad happened to his career,” he says. “Do you see where I’m going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a n***** but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”
LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD said that Chappelle had become “synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities.”
“Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes. We agree,” GLAAD tweeted.
Jaclyn Moore, showrunner of Netflix’s Dear White People, responded to Chappelle’s special by saying she was “done” with Netflix.
“I love so many of the people I’ve worked with at Netflix. Brilliant people and executives who have been collaborative and fought for important are,” Moore, who is transgender, tweeted. “But I’ve been thrown against walls because, ‘I’m not a “real” woman.’ I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me. So, @netflix, I’m done.”
Moore added: “[Chappelle] said he’s a TERF. He compared my existence to someone doing blackface. He talks about someone winning a Woman of the Year award despite never having a period should make women mad and that it makes him mad.”
She said that Chappelle’s words “have real world consequences. Consequences that every trans woman I know has dealt with. Bruises and panicked phone calls to friends. That’s real.”
Netflix has defended Chappelle and The Closer, resisting calls to pull the special from its platform.
In an internal memo, which was obtained by Variety, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said the streaming company worked hard to support “creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”
“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,” Sarandos wrote.
“It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues, so I wanted to give you some additional context,” he added. “You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.”
Sarandos concluded: “These are hard and uncomfortable issues. We all bring different values and perspectives so thank you for being part of the conversation as it’s important we’re clear about our operating principals.”
Sarandos’ memo came after a number of Netflix employees criticized the company for releasing The Closer.
In one viral Twitter threat, transgender software engineer Terra Field said that Chappelle’s special “attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness.”
Field said that transgender people aren’t offended by jokes about being transgender, but rather “the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of color) and VERY specifically Black trans women.”
“People who look like me aren’t being killed. I’m a white woman, I get to worry about Starbucks writing “Tara” on my drink,” Field wrote. “Promoting TERF ideology (which is what [Netflix] did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act. This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be.”
I work at @netflix. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness – all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups. You're going to hear a lot of talk about "offense".
We are not offended 🧵
— Terra Field (@RainofTerra) October 7, 2021
On Monday, Oct. 11, Netflix suspended Field and two other employees, The Verge reports.
Field and the other employees reportedly tried to attend a director-level meeting that they hadn’t been invited to, while another transgender employee reportedly quit over Chappelle’s special and Field’s viral tweets about it.
Netflix pushed back against any suggestion that Field was suspended for tweeting about The Closer, calling it “absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employee for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”
Chappelle, meanwhile, responded to the backlash over The Closer by telling an audience in Hollywood last week, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.”
“Fuck Twitter. Fuck NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid ass networks. I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. This is real life,” he added.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!