A group of protesters gathered near Netflix’s headquarters in Los Angeles on Wednesday at the call of LGBTQ activists who criticize the streaming platform for its support for comedian Dave Chappelle and his comments deemed transphobic by some.
A few dozen Netflix employees walked out for the occasion and joined in a Hollywood street an identical number of activists who loudly demanded a better representation of transgender people.
“I think trans and non-binary workers are not safe as long as their employer posts content that could harm them.”said Netflix Animation employee Devan McGrath, who took part in the walkout.
The controversy was triggered two weeks ago by the show The Closer aired by Netflix, in which the stand-up star responds to critics who have accused him in the past of making fun of transgender people. He retorts in particular that “gender is a fact” and that his detractors are “too sensitive”.
After defending this show, Netflix finally tried to ease tensions before the rally was held. “We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to take the off-duty and recognize that we still have work to do both within Netflix and with our content.”, wrote the streaming giant on Wednesday in a statement to AFP.
One of the rally’s organizers, Ashlee Marie Preston, insisted jokes like Dave Chappelle’s were harming the transgender minority.
“We’re not here today because we can’t laugh. We’re here because we worry these jokes are taking lives. There is nothing to laugh about.”, she said.
Ashlee Marie Preston further accuses companies like Netflix of “take advantage of these tensions” and use “algorithms to manipulate and distort the perception we have of ourselves and of others”.
The protesters in particular asked the streaming platform to precede The Closer warning and commit to promoting more LGBTQ talent.
Dave Chappelle’s show has been condemned by certain LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) groups such as GLAAD, which deplore, with supporting studies, the negative impact that the dissemination of stereotypes on minorities can have.
In a memo addressed to Netflix employees, the co-executive director in charge of content Ted Sarandos had estimated that what was broadcast “on screen did not translate directly into negative consequences in the real world” and that the principle of freedom of expression takes precedence. But he ended up admitting on Tuesday night that he was wrong, in interviews with several Hollywood trade publications: “I failed.”
“First of all, I should have recognized that some of our employees were suffering, and that they felt really hurt by a business decision that we had taken”, said Ted Sarandos at the site The Hollywood Reporter.
The head of Netflix, however, reiterated that in his opinion, Dave Chappelle’s show should not be removed from the platform.
Three employees including Terra Field, a transgender employee of the streaming service, were laid off for barging into a virtual executive meeting, before being reinstated. Another employee was dismissed for disclosing confidential information on the cost of The Closer.
The call for the walkout and rally has received backing from small screen celebrities like Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) and Jonathan Van Ness (Queer Eye), who recorded a cheering video.
African-American comic, Dave Chappelle has been accused in the past of making fun of transgender people but remains extremely popular in the United States.
In his controversial show, the comedian highlights his experience as a black man. He believes that white gay men “are part of a minority until they need to be white again”. And he says LGBTQ communities have made more progress in a few years than blacks in decades.
A small group of counter-demonstrators mobilized Wednesday to support Dave Chappelle.