Trans employees and advocates at Netflix staged a walkout on Wednesday, marking the latest development in the ongoing controversy spurred by comments made by Dave Chappelle in his new special The Closer.
Footage shared Wednesday showed supporters at a rally outside the Netflix building in Hollywood, met by a small group of “counter-protesters.” Per the Hollywood Reporter, employees who participated in the walkout—referred to as a “virtual walkout” in multiple reports due to the number of employees working from home—were asked to “not do any work for Netflix and instead engage in content that does support the trans community and donate to charities.”
A rally in support of trans Netflix employees (organized by Ashlee Marie Preston) preceded the walkout, notably having moved locations to Netflix’s Vine Street location in order to make sure there was room for more people to participate.
“I’m team TERF,” Chappelle said in the special, referring to the acronym used to describe a feminist who intentionally excludes transgender women’s rights. “I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact. You have to look at it from a woman’s perspective.”
Those comments, and others in the special, have been the subject of near-constant coverage following the special’s release on the streaming platform earlier this month. In a subsequent internal memo shared by Variety, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos addressed the criticism, saying the special wasn’t “designed to incite hate or violence.” Sarandos also said artistic freedom represents a “very different standard of speech” than would be allowed internally at the company.
On the same day that memo started popping up in headlines, news broke that three employees had been suspended in connection with attending a meeting for which they were not authorized. One of those employees, Terra Field, previously shared a Twitter thread about the Chappelle special. Field has since been reinstated.
Tuesday, Sarandos spoke with multiple outlets—including Deadline—and said he “screwed up the internal communication” by focusing on a rationalization. “I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix,” Sarandos said of employees who have called out the special. “They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.”
As for Wednesday’s walkout, the Verge reported last week that the trans employee resource group at Netflix was planning the company-wide protest in response to Sarandos’ statements in defense of Chappelle’s The Closer. In an internal organizing message, per that report, a leader of the trans employee resource group said the streamer had “continually failed to show deep care in our mission to Entertain the World by repeatedly releasing content that harms the Trans community and continually failing to create content that represents and uplifts Trans content.”
A list of demands was released to the Verge ahead of the walkout and included a call for Netflix to put in place measures “in the areas of content investment, employee relations and safety, and harm reduction.” Notably, the trans employee resource group at Netflix is not calling for Chappelle’s special to be removed in the list of demands.
On social media Wednesday, the #NetflixWalkout hashtag became a resource for information on how supporters could join in from home, including by watching the 2020 documentary Disclosure. Elliot Page, GLAAD, Billy Eichner, the aforementioned Netflix employee Terra Field, and many more also shared messages of support for all who were participating in the day’s demonstrations:
Speaking to rally attendees on Wednesday, Preston said she invited Chappelle to have a “transformative dialogue” but he hasn’t shown interest.
“I want to make it very clear that this isn’t an instance of cancel culture because I’ve invited Dave Chappelle to have transformative dialogue with us on multiple occasions and he has made it clear that is not of interest to him,” Preston said, as seen in the clip below. “So just to be fair, this isn’t cancel culture but an avoidance of accountability.”