AceShowbiz - Hundreds of activists joined Netflix staff as they staged a virtual walk-out over the streaming giant's Dave Chappelle comedy special "The Closer" on Wednesday, October 20.
The rally was staged by trans staffers and their allies to protest Netflix boss Ted Sarandos' handling of fallout from the comedian's new TV special, in which he pokes fun at the LGBTQ+ community and attacks activists who accused him of being trans-phobic.
Sarandos has apologized for mishandling his response to the furore caused by "The Closer" after insisting he and fellow executives would not be pulling the show from Netflix.
On Tuesday night, Sarandos told Deadline he "screwed up," stating, "I feel I should've made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should've recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through [sic]. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should've recognized that first."
But his comments didn't stop the virtual walk-out and the protest outside Netflix's Los Angeles headquarters on Wednesday morning.
During the virtual walk-out, staff members refused to do any Netflix work and instead promoted content that supported the trans community and urged website users to donate to various trans charities.
The public rally outside was organized by activist Ashlee Marie Preston, who told reporters, "It's violent to make members of the transgender community who work for your company participate in the oppression of their own community, and we're here to disrupt that and stand in solidarity with the employees."
"We are employees, but we are members, too," a letter drafted to the Netflix boss and obtained by The Verge reads. "We believe that this Company can and must do better in our quest to entertain the world, and that the way forward must include more diverse voices in order to avoid causing more harm."
However, Sarandos is standing firm on keeping the Chappelle special on Netflix.
He said, "When we think about this challenge we have to entertain the world, part of that challenge means that you've got audiences with various taste, various sensibilities, various beliefs. You really can't please everybody or the content would be pretty dull."
"I do think that the inclusion of the special on Netflix is consistent with our comedy offering, it's consistent with Dave Chappelle's comedy brand, and this is... one of those times when there's something on Netflix that you're not going to like."
Ahead of the protests on Wednesday, a Netflix company statement was released. It read, "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."
Drag queen Eureka O'Hara, a former contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race", spoke at the rally, while trans celebrities Elliot Page and director Lilly Wachowski were among those lending their support on Twitter.
Page added, "I stand with the trans, nonbinary, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) employees at Netflix fighting for more and better trans stories and a more inclusive workplace."
Following the rally and virtual walk-out, the activists handed over a list of demands to Sarandos, asking him and fellow Netflix executives to "eliminate references/imagery of Chappelle inside of the workplace," acknowledge the comedy special "causes harm to the trans community," and invest in the trans community by creating "a new fund to specifically develop trans and non-binary talent," among other things.