Netflix has suspended a transgender employee after the employee criticized Netflix’s decision to release comedian Dave Chappelle’s special The Closer. Released last Tuesday, the special sees Chappelle continue to joke about LGBTQ+ people.
In the special, Chappelle announces himself to be “Team TERF,” comments about trans women’s genitals, and sides with DaBaby disparaging people living with HIV.
A day after the release, Terra Field, a trans engineer who works for Netflix, laid out why the choice to release the special is harmful, and why “offended” isn’t the right word for the backlash. In the thread, Field explains that promoting the kind of ideology and speech can result in real-world consequences — frequently death — for trans people.
The thread went viral and as of Monday, the initial tweet had more than 13,000 retweets and 35,000 likes.
Netflix then suspended Field, according to The Verge. Field had allegedly attempted to go into a director-level meeting she hadn’t been invited to, which was the cause of the suspension.
The website reported that the special has caused internal controversy as employees have asked if trans people had been involved in deciding to air the special.
Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent an internal email that said the company had a “long-standing deal” with Chappelle, The Verge reports. In 2016, Chappelle signed a deal with Netflix that saw him make $20 million per special for three specials. He is expected to have made more, given that this is his sixth special for the network.
Sarandos wrote, “Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. 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. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
In 2020 Netflix released Disclosure, a critically acclaimed documentary that traces the history of trans people in media. In the project, an all-trans cast describes the tropes used against trans folks on-screen — both comedic and not — and how they directly impact the lives of trans people and the violence aimed towards them.
After the special debuted, GLAAD tweeted that Chappelle’s brand has come to be closely associated with mocking trans people and other marginalized groups.
“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,” the organization wrote.
The National Black Justice Coalition also released a statement saying that Netflix “should know better” and calling for the removal of The Closer. “With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States — the majority of whom are Black transgender people — Netflix should know better,” NBJC executive director David Johns said.
“Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence. Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community.”