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Netflix Co-CEO Walks Back On Handling Of The Closer As Walk-Out Looms

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 23: Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix speaks … [+] onstage during ‘Play Next Episode’. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Getty Images for Vanity Fair


co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos has said that he “screwed up” in his defense of  Dave Chappelle’s new special, The Closer.

The special has drawn criticism over anti-trans language from the veteran comedian.  In the special, the Half Baked star refers to himself as a “TERF” or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” and makes statements such as “gender is a fact” to discourage the trans community. 

Sarandos sent out an email to employees defending Chappelle and the special. In the email, he noted the popularity of the special, the company’s commitment to creative freedom and that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” a claim that he has now backtracked on. 

“What I should have led within those emails was humanity,” Sarandos said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting.”

Furthermore, he said, “To be clear, storytelling has an impact in the real world … sometimes quite negative.”

While he has apologized for his response, he has not backed down on the decision to leave the special up or the claims made in the special.  “We have articulated to our employees that there are going to be things you don’t like,” Sarandos said, according to the Journal. “There are going to be things that you might feel are harmful. But we are trying to entertain a world with varying tastes and varying sensibilities and various beliefs, and I think this special was consistent with that.”

While Sarandos has regrets over his handling of the situation, that isn’t enough for some of his employees. Netflix employees have planned a walkout for Wednesday. A group who go by Team Trans* has scheduled a rally outside Netflix’s Los Angeles office. 

 “We shouldn’t have to show up quarterly/annually to push back against harmful content that negatively impacts vulnerable communities,” organizer Ashlee Marie Preston said in a social media statement. “Instead, we aim to use this moment to shift the social ecology around what Netflix leadership deems ethical entertainment.”

Organizers have made social media posters with the tagline, “Transphobia is not a joke,” satirizing the “Netflix is a Joke” branding from the company. They have also come up with a list of demands for the company some that directly tie to the notion of real world harm. While Sarandos has walked back his earlier statements, Preston has posted to her Instagram that the walk out will still be happening as planned.

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