Two weeks after the debut of Dave Chappelle’s stand-up special “The Closer” on Netflix, the streaming giant is still grappling with an internal backlash as a group of staff prepare to hold a virtual walkout on Wednesday.
The walkout is the latest episode of employee unrest surrounding the special, leading to the kind of tough media coverage normally intended for other tech companies like Facebook and Google.
Many Netflix staff were angered by Mr Chappelle’s special, criticizing it as transphobic and harmful to transgender people. Netflix CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos were steadfast in their support for Mr. Chappelle in multiple communications with staff, and argued that his special was popular with subscribers and would not lead to damage in the real world.
A rally is scheduled outside Netflix’s Los Angeles headquarters on Wednesday morning to “kick off” the walkout, according to a social media post announcing the protest. The rally will include activists and public figures, and a “list of firm demands” will be sent to Mr Sarandos, according to the publication.
Netflix employee Terra Field, a software engineer who has been openly opposed to “The Closer,” wrote a blog post on Medium on Monday detailing her “whirlwind” experience since posting a discussion thread. viral on October 6 which said that Mr. Chappelle’s special “attacks the trans community and the very validity of transness”.
In the post, Ms Field, who is transgender, said she was not asking that “The Closer” be removed from Netflix. On the contrary, she hoped that the leaders would take concrete steps, in particular to “stop pretending that transphobia in the media has no effect on society”. Ms Field said she hoped Netflix would attach a warning to “The Closer” and other series on the streaming service that have been criticized as transphobic, and to promote “other queer and trans content after the people have consumed this content “.
Of ‘The Closer,’ Ms Field wrote: ‘It doesn’t feel good to have worked in the company that started it. Especially when we have spent years shaping the policies and benefits of the company to make it a great place for trans people.
“A place cannot be a great place to work if someone has to betray their community to do it,” she added.
There have already been several tense moments between Netflix core employees and senior executives in recent days. In an emotional company-wide meeting on Friday, several staff members asked Mr Sarandos difficult and persistent questions about the special and the company’s response to criticism. At the end of the meeting, Netflix said it fired a staff member for leaking documents to the media.
“We understand that this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt by Netflix,” said a company representative, “but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is at the heart of our business.”
Nicole sperling contributed reports.