Netflix Employees Walk Out Over Chappelle Response (Images & Letter)

Late Wednesday morning, employees at the Netflix main office on Vine Street in Hollywood staged a walkout in protest of jokes against the Transgender community in Dave Chappelle's latest comedy special The Closer, and how Netflix has handled the controversy. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos is under fire from Trans employees and activists over inaction to protect Trans employees and the community by not giving a platform to hate speech and offensive content that results in perpetuating violence against Trans individuals and the LBGTQ community.

Netflix Employees Walkout Over Response to Chappelle Special
Rally organizer Ashlee Marie Preston speaks at the walkout in front of the Netflix building in Hollywood.

A copy of the letter given to Sarandos reads as follows:

Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that there are many places where Netflix still has to grow when it comes to content relating to the trans and non-binary community. The Trans* Employee Resource Group, which includes trans and non-binary colleagues as well as our numerous allies, wants Netflix to immediately take the steps below to begin to repair the relationship between the Company, our colleagues, and our audience. Specifically, we want the Company to adopt measures in the areas of Content Investment, Employee Relations and Safety, and Harm Reduction, all of which are necessary to avoid future instances of platforming transphobia and hate speech, and to account for the harm we have caused and will continue to cause until the below measures are put in place.
Content Investment
  • Create a new fund to specifically develop trans and non-binary talent
○ This fund should support both above-the-line (ATL) and below-the-line (BTL) talent;
○ This fund should exist in addition to the existing Creative Equity Fund;
  • Increase investment in trans and non-binary content on Netflix comparable to our total investment in transphobic content, including marketing and promotion;
  • Invest in multiple trans creators to make both scripted and unscripted programs across genres;
  • Revise internal processes on commissioning and releasing potential harmful ("sensitive") content, including but not limited to involving parties who are a part of the subject community and can speak to potential harm, or consulting with 3rd party experts/vendors;
  • Increase the ERG role in conversations around potentially harmful content and ensure we have best in class regional support on complicated intersectional diversity issues;
  • Hire trans and non-binary content executives, especially BIPOC, in leading positions;
Employee Relations and Safety
  • Recruit trans people, especially BIPOC, for leadership roles in the company (Director, VP, etc.) and promote an inclusive environment for them;
  • Allow employees to remove themselves from previous company promotional content (e.g. allyship and diversity videos, etc.);
  • Eliminate references/imagery of transphobic titles or talent inside of the workplace, including but not limited to murals, posters, room names, swag;
Harm Reduction
  • Acknowledge the harm and Netflix's responsibility for this harm from transphobic content, and in particular harm to the Black trans community;
  • Add a disclaimer before transphobic titles that specifically flag transphobic
language, misogyny, homophobia, hate speech, etc. as required;
  • Boost promotion for Disclosure and other trans-affirming titles in the platform;
  • Suggest trans-affirming content alongside and after content flagged as anti-trans.
We are employees, but we are members, too. We believe that this Company can and
must do better in our quest to entertain the world, and that the way forward must
include more diverse voices in order to avoid causing more harm. The Trans* ERG
looks forward to working with the Company to make this a better, more entertaining
place for us all.
Trans* Netflix
Netflix Employees Walkout Over Response to Chappelle Special
Burbank city council member Konstantine Anthony speaks at the walkout rally.

The Netflix Walkout rally featured public officials, like West Hollywood mayor pro-tempore Sepi Shyne, rally organizer Ashlee Marie Preston, Transparent creator Joey Soloway, and Drag Race alumn and activist David Huggard, aka Eureka.

Netflix Employees Walkout Over Response to Chappelle Special
Among the activists is Blossom C. Brown, whose birthday is today – and is spending the morning protesting.

"We're here not because we cannot take a joke, but because we are concerned that the jokes are taking lives," Preston said, seemingly in response to encroaching counter-protesters with signs that read "jokes are funny" and "don't cancel comedy".

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About Eden Arnold

Eden enjoys watching baking shows with her cat, and they have lots of opinions about television (as well as movies and everything else). She puts this to good use along with her journalism degree and writing experience with by-lines over the years in newspapers, magazines, books, and online media outlets. You can find her on Twitter and IG at @Edenhasopinions.
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