Activist and journalist Ashlee Marie Preston announced that she has organised an in-person rally in support of the upcoming walkout on Wednesday planned by trans employees of Netflix.
The rally, named “Stand Up in Solidarity”, will take place at Netflix’s EPIC building in Hollywood on Wednesday and will present co-CEO Ted Sarandos with a list of “firm asks”. It will also feature a PSA delivered by public figures including some who have worked with the streaming platform such as Jonathan Van Ness, Jameela Jamil, Eureka O’Hara, Angelica Ross, Colton Haynes, and Sara Ramirez among others.
Netflix’s senior management has been embroiled in controversy for repeatedly defending Dave Chappelle‘s latest comedy special The Closer on October 5. The show was criticised for its jokes on gender-neutral pronouns, homophobic and anti-trans remarks and called out by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), an organisation which works for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ people in the entertainment industry and the National Black Justice Coalition, among several others through social media.
Following the criticism, co-CEO Sarandos in an email sent to all staff, and obtained by Variety, wrote “With ‘The Closer,’ we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.) Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
The global head of TV, Bela Bajaria, said that the show “didn’t cross the line”. Netflix will “continue to work with Dave Chappelle in the future,” Co-CEO Reed Hastings meanwhile wrote on an internal message board and as per transcripts of the comments seen by Bloomberg News he further wrote “We see him as a unique voice, but can understand if you or others never want to watch his shows.”
As this news broke, the streaming giant suspended a few of its employees who had criticised Chappelle’s comedy special on social media. It later reinstated them on October 13 and stated that the three were not suspended for criticising the show, but over their unauthorised attendance at a high-level meeting.
Following the announcement of the upcoming walkout, Netflix also fired a leader of the trans employee resource group organizing it, who is Black, currently pregnant and did not want to be named for fear of online harassment, The Verge reported. The termination was based on suspicion of leaking metrics to the media related to the comedy special which included the amount paid for The Closer and the number of people who have watched the show.
Ahead of the walkout, the Netflix employees have demanded increased investment in trans and non-binary content, hiring trans and non-binary content executives, especially BIPOC, in leading roles, and acknowledgement of the harm caused by transphobic or anti-Black content, among several other demands.
Terra Field, who identifies as queer and trans and was one of the employees who was suspended and later reinstated, on Tuesday, published an article titled It Was Never About Dave on her personal blog where she mentioned “Dave is not, and has never been, the cause of this problem — he is a symptom of it.”
On October 16, Australian comedian and writer Hannah Gadsby also called out Sarandos for dragging her name into their “mess” while describing the streaming giant as an “amoral algorithm cult”. She was refering to Sarandos’ email to employees defending Chappelle’s show in which he mentions her standup special among other titles such as Orange is the New Black and Control Z.
While the employees were taking their grievances to an internal forum, the streaming platform was planning to host an internal event with trans activist Alok Vaid-Menon.
As per Blomberg News‘ exclusive data, the streaming giant spent $24.1 million on The Closer.