Netflix bosses braced for an employee walkout and rally in Los Angeles on Wednesday as anger swelled over a recent Dave Chappelle comedy special that activists say is harmful to the transgender community.
The streaming giant has found itself embroiled in an intense and highly public controversy over Chappelle’s “The Closer,” in which the stand-up star insists “gender is a fact” and accuses LGBTQ people of being “too sensitive.”
“A list of firm asks” will be presented to Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos at the rally, which organizer Ashlee Marie Preston said Tuesday had been moved to a larger site due to “overwhelming demand.”
Organizers did not specify their demands ahead of the rally, although Preston said the event would call for content that prioritizes “the safety and dignity of all marginalized communities.”
Transgender Netflix employee Terra Field has called on the streamer to add a content warning to “The Closer,” and to promote more “queer and trans comedians and talent.”
“A place can’t be a great place to work if someone has to betray their community to do so,” Field wrote in a blog post Monday.
“The Closer” has been condemned by LGBTQ groups, which cited studies linking stereotypes about minorities to real-world harm.
But Sarandos wrote to staff last week that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm,” and emphasized the importance of defending “artistic freedom.”
Three employees including Field were reportedly suspended after crashing a virtual meeting for executives over the episode, but later reinstated.
Another was sacked for leaking internal data about the cost of the episode.
The walkout and rally have drawn support from film and television celebrities such as Jameela Jamil (“The Good Place”) and Jonathan Van Ness (“Queer Eye”), who have recorded a video message expressing “love and support” for the movement.
Acclaimed comedian Hannah Gadbsy — who has her own popular Netflix specials — last week called the streaming giant an “amoral algorithm cult.”
Chappelle has been accused of mocking transgender people in the past, but remains hugely popular.
In “The Closer,” he describes a US rapper who “punched the LGBTQ community right in the AIDS,” compares trans women to the use of Blackface, and jokes about threatening to kill a woman and stash her body in his car.
Chappelle — who is Black — also argues that white gay people “are minorities until they need to be white again,” and that LGBTQ communities have made progress in a few years that Black people have not enjoyed in decades.