Netflix Decides To Stand By Dave Chappelle After His Comedy Special 'The Closer' Faces Backlash

Netflix Decides To Stand By Dave Chappelle After His Comedy Special 'The Closer' Faces Backlash

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos in a memo stated that 'The Closer' would remain on the platform, despite its transphobic content, to "support creative freedom."

Dave Chapelle's new comedy special, The Closer, has been facing a lot of backlash for the comedian's insensitive jokes about the trans community. The controversy has been gaining even more steam after Netflix decided to fire their trans employee who spoke out about the damage Chapelle's "jokes" would have on the already marginalized community. His transphobic takes have been criticized by members of the LGBTQ+ community and advocates who have been demanding that the comedy special be taken off the platform. Netflix's response to the issue has been less than forthcoming and they have also decided to side with Chapelle on this one.


Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent out a memo explaining the stance they have taken on the matter. The memo that was accessed by Variety first clarified why three employees criticizing Chapelle were suspended and why he had decided to leave The Closer untouched on the streaming platform. “Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long-standing deal with him. His last special Sticks & Stones, also controversial, is our most-watched, stickiest, and most award-winning stand-up special to date,” Sarandos stated in the memo.


He went on to add, “As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.” He then mentioned other Netflix shows such as Cuties that was accused of promoting lewd images of minors and 13 Reasons Why that had graphic images of suicide, as content that continues to be a part of Netflix.

As for the suspension of three employees, one of whom is a transgender person, Sarandos offered guidance to managers as to how they should handle upset employees and angry talent speaking out against Chappelle. The three employees, including Terra Field, a senior software engineer based in San Francisco, who had shared a lengthy thread on Twitter pointing out the harmful comments Chapelle had made in his special were suspended for apparently crashing a top management meeting. A Netflix spokesperson had stated, “It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”


Netflix maintains Field was fired for disrupting a meeting and not for the Twitter thread. Sandaros' memo also said: "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."


Since 2013, more than 200 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have been killed in the United States. In 2021 alone, more than 38 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means, reported the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Although each case differs, they are mostly based on anti-transgender bias. HRC reports have been able to prove how anti-transgender stigma, denial of opportunity, and increased risk factors compound to create a culture of violence.


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