Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos wrote an all-staff memo Wednesday night that once again defended the company's decision to stream Dave Chapelle's new comedy special, "The Closer," which has drawn widespread criticism from LGBTQ-plus activist groups.
Critics, including activists within the Netflix community, have called "The Closer" transphobic and argue that it could incite violence against trans people. Sarandos disagreed with that characterization in his memo and defended the company's efforts to stream a wide variety of content. "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.)," he wrote in an email first reported by Variety. "While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn't directly translate to real-world harm." His memo compared the effects of content streamed on Netflix to the now generally-debunked theory that violent video games make people who play them more violent.
Several Netflix employees have spoken publicly about their anger and sense of betrayal at the company's decision to stream the show. Three workers, one of whom identifies as trans and has spoken publicly about her anger at the company, were temporarily suspended for trying to attend a Netflix director's meeting without an invitation. "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," a Netflix spokesperson wrote in a statement to Protocol. The trans employee resource group is reportedly planning a company-wide walkout Oct. 20th to protest Sarandos' statements, according to the Verge.
Netflix's LGBTQ+ storytelling Twitter account shared their frustrations Thursday: "This week fucking sucks. To be clear: As the queer and trans people who run this account, you can imagine that the last couple of weeks have been hard. We can't always control what goes on screen. What we can control is what we create here, and the POV we bring to internal conversations."
"Our hope is that you can be hugely inspired by entertaining the world, while also living with titles you strongly believe have no place on Netflix. This will not be the last title that causes some of you to wonder if you can still love Netflix. I sincerely hope that you can," Sarandos wrote in his memo. Netflix is not the first streaming company to face both public and internal backlash over content decisions; Spotify was embroiled in a similar controversy last year when employees asked for editorial control over content produced by Joe Rogan.