Two weeks after the debut of Dave Chappelle’s standup special The Closer on Netflix, the streaming giant is still grappling with internal backlash as a group of staffers prepare to stage a virtual walkout Wednesday.
The walkout is the latest episode of employee unrest surrounding the special, leading to the kind of tough news coverage normally aimed at other tech companies like Facebook and Google.
Many Netflix staffers were angered by Chappelle’s special, criticizing it as transphobic and harmful to transgender people. Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief executives, have been steadfast in their support of Chappelle in multiple communications with staff, and have argued that his special has been popular with subscribers and would not lead to real world harm.
On Wednesday morning, a rally is scheduled for outside Netflix’s Los Angeles headquarters, as “a kickoff” to the walkout, according to a social media post announcing the protest. The rally will include activists and public figures, and a “list of firm asks” will be sent to Sarandos, according to the post.
One Netflix staffer, Terra Field, a software engineer who has been outspoken in her opposition to The Closer, wrote a blog post on Medium on Monday detailing her “whirlwind” experience since posting a viral thread on October 6 that said Chappelle’s special “attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness.”
In the post, Field, who is transgender, said she was not asking that The Closer be removed from Netflix. Rather, she hoped executives would take concrete actions, including to “stop pretending that transphobia in media has no effect on society.” Field said she hoped Netflix would attach a warning to The Closer and other series on the streaming service that have been criticized as transphobic, and to promote “other queer and trans content after people consume that content.”
Of The Closer, Field wrote: “It doesn’t feel good to have been working at the company that put it out there. Especially when we’ve spent years building out the company’s policies and benefits so that it would be a great place for trans people to work.
“A place can’t be a great place to work if someone has to betray their community to do so,” she added.
There have already been several moments of tension between rank-and-file Netflix employees and top executives in recent days. At an emotional companywide meeting on Friday, several staffers asked tough and persistent questions of Sarandos about the special and the company’s response to the criticism of it. After the meeting ended, Netflix said that it fired a staffer for leaking documents to the news media.
“We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix,” a company representative said, “but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.”