LOS ALTOS (KPIX 5) — Members of the LGBTQ community are up in arms over a new special from comedian Dave Chappelle that they say ridicules transgender people. And on Wednesday, employees of Netflix staged a walkout to protest their company’s support for the program.
At noon, dozens of employees at the Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos filed out of the building to stage a rally in the parking lot. The same thing happened outside the Netflix offices in Los Angeles. Their message is that Dave Chappelle’s new special, entitled “The Closer” has crossed the line.
“The line is simple! Stop making things worse!” said film director Joey Soloway to the crowd in L.A.
But Chappelle has made a career of crossing lines. His razor-edged humor and social commentary has been compared to that of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor. In “The Closer” he pulls no punches in his discussion of LGBTQ people. But some say they’re tired of being his punching bag.
“The people who are most likely to experience harm from ‘The Closer’ are Black and Brown trans women,” said Bri Barnett. “This content gives a permission to harass trans people, to ridicule us, to belittle us.”
Barnett is Director of Advancement with a group called “Trans Lifeline” that operates a suicide hotline for transgender people.
“Neflix made a $60 million investment in hate,” she said. “We are the ones that have to answer the call of trans people who are negatively impacted by this content.”
Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos initially defended Chappelle’s work as a matter of artistic freedom but later backed away, saying he mishandled his employee’s concerns. Terra Field, a Netflix senior software engineer who is transgender, was suspended after openly condemning the special but said she has since been exonerated.
“The impressions that people absorb through media become their truth, especially if they don’t know anybody from the groups that are being discussed,” said Field.
Field is not demanding that Netflix drop the special, but wants her company to do a better job balancing the kind of images portrayed of her community.
“It’s a question of, how many people are seeing that trans content?” she said. “How good a job are we doing of exposing people to multiple points of view?”
At the Los Angeles rally, employees and supporters ended up in a shoving match with a vocal group of Chappelle fans who showed up to defend his freedom of expression. So, is Dave Chappelle fostering hate against LGBTQ people, or is he the latest victim of the “cancel culture?” It depends who you ask. Hate, it seems, has something in common with beauty. It exists in the eye of the beholder.