Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has spoken to employees about the streamer’s controversial new Dave Chappelle stand-up special, “The Closer.”
The fire comedian has in recent days attracted criticism from the LGBTQ + community over several jokes, specifically about transgender “thin skin” and the effects of the so-called “cancel culture”.
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In a Friday memo sent after Netflix’s quarterly company review, a two-day gathering of the company’s top 500 employees, Sarando offered guidance on how to deal with disturbed employees and angry talent speaking out against Chappelle. It was the same meeting that crashed down on three junior employees, one of whom was a transgender person who was critical of Chappelle on Twitter last week. All three were suspended, an investigation awaits.
“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long-term agreement with him. His latest special “Sticks & Stones”, also controversial, is our most watched, tackiest and most award winning stand-up special to date, “Sarandos wrote in the note, obtained by Variety.
“As with our other talents, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even if it means there will always be content on Netflix that some believe is harmful,” he added.
As examples, Sarandos referred to Netflix content, including “Cuties,” the Sundance sensation meant commenting on “hypersexualization of children,” which in turn was accused of promoting shameful images of minors; teenage suicide drama “13 reasons for;” and the unwritten series “My Unorthodox Life” about a fashionista who leaves the Jewish Orthodox faith.
Netflix declined to comment on the case.
Sarandos seemed to address the industry’s rumors that many Netflix employees were furious at the company’s silence over Chappelle’s remarks about the trans community, “Several of you have also asked where we put the line on hate. We do not allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hatred or violence, and we do not believe that ‘The Closer’ crosses that line. “
In the memo, Sarandos drew a line between expressing artistic freedom and protecting employees in the workplace.
“Especially in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally, as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace,” he said.
Read the full note from Sarandos below:
I wanted to follow up on “The Closer” -Dave Chappelle’s latest special-as several of you have reached out to QBR who asked what they should say to your teams. It never feels good when people hurt, especially our colleagues, so I would give you an extra context. You should also be aware that some talents may join third parties to ask us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.
Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today and we have a long-term deal with him. His last special “Sticks & Stones”, also controversial, is our most watched., Stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date. As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even if it means there will always be content on Netflix that some people think is harmful, such as “Cuties”, “365 Days”, “13 Reasons Why” or “My Unorthodox Life. ””
Several of you have also asked where we set the limit for hatred. We do not allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hatred or violence, and we do not believe that The Closer goes beyond that limit. However, I recognize that it is difficult to distinguish between comments and injuries, especially with stand-up comedy that exists to push boundaries. Some people think stand-up art is vicious, but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.
In terms of our commitment to inclusion, we work hard to ensure that more people see their lives reflected on screen and that underrepresented communities are not defined by individual history. So we are proud of titles like “Sex Education”, “Young Royals”, “Control Z” and “Disclosure”. Externally, especially in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is of course a very different standard of speech than we allow internally, as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace.
Today’s conversation about Entertain the World was timely. These are tough and uncomfortable questions. We all bring different values and perspectives, so thank you for being a part of the conversation, as it is important that we are clear about our operating principles.
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