How does a major company face controversy? Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix, has decided to approach the ongoing controversy surrounding the Dave Chapelle comedy special, The Closer, by defending it. Many online allege that The Closer is dangerously transphobic. It’s been said that Dave Chappelle’s comments are directly harmful, specifically to the Black trans community. Previously, Ted Sarandos has publicly said, “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.” A newly leaked internal memo has a slightly different take for Sarandos, seeming to acknowledge that the title is violent and abusive, but that he doesn’t believe violent content goes far enough to lead to real-world harm. He says that the company doesn’t believe violent content leads to such acts.
Following the public news of a planned walkout by employees at Netflix, Ted Sarandos sent out a company-wide email. That email has since been obtained by Variety, who published the lengthy memo in full. The memo starts off saying that he wants to help his employees “better understand the principles that guide our team’s content choices, especially with challenging titles like this.” He then says that Netflix needs to entertain the world and that the world has “diverse tastes”. He says that they push back against censorship. He talks about “trade offs”. He says, “we’ll always have titles some members and employees dislike or believe are harmful.” He added, “While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
This last part of his statement was the heart of the memo Ted Sarandos sent out to Netflix employees addressing the Dave Chappelle standup special. It’s also the part that has people on Twitter enraged. Netflix has a wide catalog of content seemingly directed at an LGBTQ audience. One such piece of content has been Disclosure, a documentary on Netflix about Hollywood depictions of transgender people and the impact that has on the lives of real-world trans people. GLAAD issued a statement addressing Ted Sarandos and his memo stating that content doesn’t incite violence. GLAAD said, “Ironically, the documentary ‘Disclosure’ on Netflix demonstrates this quite clearly.”
According to reports by Bloomberg, the situation between Netflix employees and Ted Sarandos started before Dave Chappelle’s special was released. According to their report, staff brought to the company’s attention that they felt the content crossed lines and was inflammatory. As public reaction is echoing these statements, tensions continue to rise.
At this time, there are three key figures in the Netflix situation. There is co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who is saying that Dave Chappelle’s comedy special doesn’t cross Netflix’s lines for appropriate content. There are Netflix employees staging a walkout and struggling to find their way in this situation. And then there is online commentary. These are three separate things, as can be witnessed on Twitter.
Because Netflix has so much LGBTQ content meant to appeal to the community, they have a Twitter account called Most that covers that content. This account is where audiences upset about the Dave Chappelle special are sending much of their own commentary, letting Netflix know that they are cancelling their accounts and don’t want anything to do with the streaming service. Twitter users also want answers. They want these answers not from Ted Sarandos, but from the LGBTQ employees running the Most account. The account first addressed this recently in a thread where they say that they are human employees at the company and having a bad week.
People did go back to yelling at the account run by Netflix employees.
As Ted Sarandos continues to defend the Dave Chappelle comedy special, the situation remains tense. Employees at Netflix have been suspended, and reportedly since reinstated at the company. Walkouts have been planned. Viewers and employees are angry. At this point, it’s unclear whether the Netflix co-CEO is hoping to wait out the storm or if the negative commentary will, at some point, change his approach. For now, he’s doubling down.