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Should this really be the moment NETFLIX stands its ground over a DAVE CHAPPELLE special?

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When Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special dropped on Netflix, viewers were quick to call out one segment where Chappelle discussed transgender women. And not long after a staffer’s tweet went viral, three were suspended from the company.

In the past week, Netflix has been surrounded in controversy for its decision to release a Dave Chappelle comedy special – The Closer. The special includes a segment where Chappelle spoke about cancel culture and how JK Rowling was ‘cancelled’ for previous comments about transgender people.

Chappelle, who had also come under fire for his own past comments about transgender people, compared transgender women to people wearing blackface, and proceeded to joke about their genitalia.

The release of the special prompted a Netflix staffer who identifies as transgender, Terra Field, to tweet a thread of comments about how Chappelle’s special harms the trans community, noting that they are not “offended” despite being brushed off as such.

In the days that followed, a transgender showrunner left the company, Netflix stood its ground for releasing The Closer, and then Field and two other employees were suspended for attempting to join a meeting with Netflix executives. Netflix denies this was in response to the Twitter thread.

Without rehashing too many details of the controversy – from either side. This article isn’t about diving into the problem itself. But instead, it’s important to understand and question the decisions Netflix ultimately made.

Some asked for the special to be removed from the streamer entirely, but many others just the one segment discussing cancel culture and transgender women, citing the harm to LGBT people Field had discussed. However, Netflix stuck by its initial decision, and thus their celebrity talent, Dave Chappelle.

In an internal email to employees, released by The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said:

“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. … As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.

“Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.

“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

In response, GLAAD, an organisation founded as a protest against defamatory coverage of LGBT people, said in a statement:

“Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that. While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards.”

Netflix has been well-regarded for their depiction of LGBT people in their film and television content, such as Sex Education and Orange Is The New Black. So a film like Chappelle’s, and the unwavering support since its release from the streamer, seems a bit out of place for Netflix.

There’s no denying Chappelle is a popular figure in the comedy world, but with three staffers having lost their job (whether directly or indirectly) because of this controversy, and an army out for Netflix blood, is Chapelle’s star power really worth jeopardising Netflix’s reputation?

There is an argument to be said about drawing the line between comedy and hate, and of course it’s important to recognise the critiques of people like Field who voice their concerns for the harm Chappelle’s comments may have given to LGBT people.

It’s a fine line to walk across in our digital and modern world, but despite what Netflix says, they put up a fight and turned on their own in the process. Without any effort to seek the middle ground.

I’m not saying this was necessarily the wrong decision, although I do think the voices of so many LGBT community members counts for a fair discussion over the comments and exactly how harmful they may be to their community.

What I am questioning is why this is the moment Netflix draws a line in the sand, and doesn’t look deeper into the issue on this occasion.

Netflix is a brand and company that could have easily listened to the outcry and taken down the segment, appeasing many criticisers and reaffirming their LGBT support. It would, for the most part, put to bed the controversy they are now in.

And it’s a move the streamer’s done in a similar fashion before when it removed a suicide scene from 13 Reasons Why, after many raised issues with it, some seeing it as ‘glorifying suicide’.

13 Reasons Why (image – Netflix)

While the decision brought supporters and opposers, it was a fix to the problem. One that could have done a lot of unknown good, even if it took two years to finally get the scene removed from the platform.

No one was harmed by removing the suicide scene, because the existence of potential harm by having the scene up was undoubtedly more dangerous. But in the Chappelle case, even though there’s a suggestion of serious harm from his comments, Netflix doesn’t act.

Keeping the segment up and being so divisive in the process paints the company in a negative light, and compounding problems could cost them in the future. Their support of the LGBT community now comes with an asterisk to some, an asterisk that didn’t need to exist.

So will Netflix remove the Chappelle special’s segment in two years time after enough ongoing dissatisfaction? Or will this be the moment it stands its ground and flags itself as an ironic contender to the ‘cancel culture’ discussion?

- ADVERTISEMENT -

When Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special dropped on Netflix, viewers were quick to call out one segment where Chappelle discussed transgender women. And not long after a staffer’s tweet went viral, three were suspended from the company.

In the past week, Netflix has been surrounded in controversy for its decision to release a Dave Chappelle comedy special – The Closer. The special includes a segment where Chappelle spoke about cancel culture and how JK Rowling was ‘cancelled’ for previous comments about transgender people.

Chappelle, who had also come under fire for his own past comments about transgender people, compared transgender women to people wearing blackface, and proceeded to joke about their genitalia.

The release of the special prompted a Netflix staffer who identifies as transgender, Terra Field, to tweet a thread of comments about how Chappelle’s special harms the trans community, noting that they are not “offended” despite being brushed off as such.

- ADVERTISEMENT -

In the days that followed, a transgender showrunner left the company, Netflix stood its ground for releasing The Closer, and then Field and two other employees were suspended for attempting to join a meeting with Netflix executives. Netflix denies this was in response to the Twitter thread.

Without rehashing too many details of the controversy – from either side. This article isn’t about diving into the problem itself. But instead, it’s important to understand and question the decisions Netflix ultimately made.

Some asked for the special to be removed from the streamer entirely, but many others just the one segment discussing cancel culture and transgender women, citing the harm to LGBT people Field had discussed. However, Netflix stuck by its initial decision, and thus their celebrity talent, Dave Chappelle.

In an internal email to employees, released by The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said:

“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. … As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.

“Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.

“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

In response, GLAAD, an organisation founded as a protest against defamatory coverage of LGBT people, said in a statement:

“Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that. While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards.”

Netflix has been well-regarded for their depiction of LGBT people in their film and television content, such as Sex Education and Orange Is The New Black. So a film like Chappelle’s, and the unwavering support since its release from the streamer, seems a bit out of place for Netflix.

There’s no denying Chappelle is a popular figure in the comedy world, but with three staffers having lost their job (whether directly or indirectly) because of this controversy, and an army out for Netflix blood, is Chapelle’s star power really worth jeopardising Netflix’s reputation?

- ADVERTISEMENT -

There is an argument to be said about drawing the line between comedy and hate, and of course it’s important to recognise the critiques of people like Field who voice their concerns for the harm Chappelle’s comments may have given to LGBT people.

It’s a fine line to walk across in our digital and modern world, but despite what Netflix says, they put up a fight and turned on their own in the process. Without any effort to seek the middle ground.

I’m not saying this was necessarily the wrong decision, although I do think the voices of so many LGBT community members counts for a fair discussion over the comments and exactly how harmful they may be to their community.

What I am questioning is why this is the moment Netflix draws a line in the sand, and doesn’t look deeper into the issue on this occasion.

Netflix is a brand and company that could have easily listened to the outcry and taken down the segment, appeasing many criticisers and reaffirming their LGBT support. It would, for the most part, put to bed the controversy they are now in.

And it’s a move the streamer’s done in a similar fashion before when it removed a suicide scene from 13 Reasons Why, after many raised issues with it, some seeing it as ‘glorifying suicide’.

13 Reasons Why (image – Netflix)

While the decision brought supporters and opposers, it was a fix to the problem. One that could have done a lot of unknown good, even if it took two years to finally get the scene removed from the platform.

No one was harmed by removing the suicide scene, because the existence of potential harm by having the scene up was undoubtedly more dangerous. But in the Chappelle case, even though there’s a suggestion of serious harm from his comments, Netflix doesn’t act.

Keeping the segment up and being so divisive in the process paints the company in a negative light, and compounding problems could cost them in the future. Their support of the LGBT community now comes with an asterisk to some, an asterisk that didn’t need to exist.

So will Netflix remove the Chappelle special’s segment in two years time after enough ongoing dissatisfaction? Or will this be the moment it stands its ground and flags itself as an ironic contender to the ‘cancel culture’ discussion?

Matthew Simmonds
Matthew Simmonds is a journalist and blogger, with a keen interest in the world of Reality TV. He loves exploring both what’s happening in front of the camera but also how the magic comes together behind the scenes. If not glued to the TV bingeing one of the newest obsessions or a timeless series, you’ll find Matthew endlessly scrolling through Twitter (and he may even tweet a time or two). Matthew’s also a final-year Communication student, majoring in Journalism, at the Queensland University of Technology.
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Comments

  1. I would suggest that there are bigger things in the world worth all this angst and worry. This is a comedy show on TV that is causing all this gnashing of teeth. I watched it. It was a great piece of stand-up. Apparently a lot of people thought the same.
    Diversity and tolerance should equally apply to what people find funny. Or should I say, are allowed to find funny? This appears to be the new paradigm. Self-appointed gatekeepers of what people should or shouldn’t be laughing at.
    If the show was not funny and did not resonate with an audience, then so be it.
    Divisive? Only because these very loud and vocal gatekeepers are making it appear so.
    I recall Morgan Freeman being asked about the problem of racism. He said very wise words indeed. He said perhaps all this talk about racism simply helps perpetuate racism itself. I couldn’t agree more and I think it applies equally to many of these other supposedly ‘divisive’ topics.

  2. I’m a progressive and member of the Queer community and I’m also sick and tired of the gatekeepers of the gay lobby especially here in Australia.

    I don’t find Chapelle’s jokes that funny in this special but the hypocrisy of progressive Queers to pick and choose elements of his jokes to suit their agenda is also appalling.

    I’m not seeing a lot of nuances from this debate from either side but a nasty debate that has become a big joke.

    Bigotry is evident everywhere and that includes my own Queer community that can’t see through their own hypocrisy in deconstructing race and identity.

    I’d like to see more diversity in our humor and that includes black trans comedians here in Australia..One question needs to be asked…where are they?

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