Trans Netflix employees and their supporters staged a walkout of the streamer’s Vine Street offices followed by a rally on the street Wednesday to protest how the company addressed—and, some say, failed to address—their belief that Dave Chappelle’s latest special, The Closer, is transphobic. Also on hand were fans of the controversial comic.
At issue was not only Chappelle’s material, but Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos’s initial response to it in an employee memo which some found to be tone deaf while others felt it missed the point.
Sarandos issued a fresh mea culpa Tuesday, admitting, “I screwed up that internal communication,” but, somehow, that did not stop the factions from gathering.
The opposing viewpoints were spelled out on picket signs, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Pro-Chappelle marchers held placards reading, “Dave is funny,” and “Jokes are funny,” while the walkout party’s signs included, “Support, uplift, protect trans voices,” and “Gender is NOT a fact. Educate yourself.” They also chanted, “What do we want? Accountability! When do we want it? Now!”—drowning out Chappelle’s fans.
One major point of contention was the firing of Black trans former program manager B. Pagels-Minor, who the streamer accused of leaking confidential information, a charge Pagels-Minor denies.
“As most of you know, I’m 33 weeks pregnant,” Pagels-Minor told the crowd. “And when I thought about why I’m participating in this, it’s [so] that my son does not grow up with content that says that it hates me.”
Transparent creator Joey Soloway addressed the assembled as well, going after Chappelle for declaring himself “Team TERF”—“trans-exclusionary radical feminist”—in supporting Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has also been accused of transphobia.
Soloway challenged the Netflix to appoint a trans person to its board “this fucking week,” declaring, “There’s no both sides here. Trans-exclusionary radical politics means that bodies and gender and sexual identity must always line up as J.K. Rowling thinks they should, [which] means the same thing as saying trans people aren’t real people, that trans people are half a person.”
Although Chappelle is at the center of the conflict, a list of demands given to Netflix by the protesters does not include pulling his special from the lineup.
“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,” the group said in a press release.
Celebrities including The Matrix director Lilly Wachowski, Billy Eichner and Elliot Page offered their support in tweets hashtagged #NetflixWalkout.
“#NetflixWalkout If you’re not standing up for trans lives, you need to take a good look at who you ARE standing with. Good luck today everybody!” Wachowski shared.
“I stand with the trans, nonbinary, and BIPOC employees at Netflix fighting for more and better trans stories and a more inclusive workplace #NetflixWalkout,” tweeted Page.
— Elliot Page (@TheElliotPage) October 20, 2021
A Netflix rep said in a statement Wednesday, “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.