Mary Bickert | Bloomberg
Co-CEO of Netflix Inc. Ted Sarandos again defended the company’s decision to broadcast Dave Chappel’s controversial comedy with jokes about transgender people, denying it would cause “real harm,” he wrote in an email to employees on Monday.
“Chappel makes tough jokes about many different groups, which is his style and the reason his fans love his comedy and commentary,” Sarandos wrote in an email received by Variety. “Stand-up comedians often reveal uncomfortable issues because art is inherently provocative. As a leadership team, we do not believe The Closer is intended to incite hatred or violence against anyone. ”
Netflix was criticized last week for showing Dave Chappel’s film Closer, which drew criticism both internally and online. Netflix transgender employees are planning a strike next week to protest the company’s decision to air the show after some employees raised concerns about material before the show debuted last week. Company executives, including the head of TV Bela Bajaria and Sarandos, decided the show did not cross any boundaries.
Jacqueline Moore, transgender screenwriter and producer of Netflix’s Dear White People, said last week that she would no longer be working on the streaming service, while Terra Field, the company’s senior software engineer, took to Twitter to voice her concerns via line … tweets that went viral. On Monday, the company suspended Field and two other employees for allegedly disrupting a meeting with executives last week; Field has since been rebuilt, according to tweets she posted on Tuesday.
More than 1,000 people have called or written to the company to complain about the special within days of its release, someone familiar with the numbers told Bloomberg this week. That’s more complaints than Chappelle’s previous Sticks & Stones specials, but fewer than other controversial shows like Cuties.
In another note Sarandos wrote to staff on Friday in response to the show’s backlash, Sarandos praised Chappelle as the most popular comedian on Netflix and told staff that the company had a long-standing deal with the comedian, stating that Chappelle’s latest special was one of the most popular comedians. “The most popular, most popular and award-winning stand-up streaming platform today.”
Since its debut on October 5, ten million people have watched “The Closer” according to someone familiar with viewership. Co-CEO Reed Hastings said on an internal message board that Netflix “will continue to work with Dave Chappell in the future,” according to transcripts reviewed by Bloomberg News.
This isn’t the first time one of his specials has pissed off the trans community or Netflix employees. Members of the Black @ Netflix and Trans * employee groups have previously met with company executives to discuss another Chappelle special and to express concern that the company continues to release transphobic programs.
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