Netflix employees walked out of the streaming service’s offices in Los Angeles on Wednesday, protesting its support of Dave Chappelle’s comedy special, which included transphobic material.
Other supporters joined a rally outside — which was organized by trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston — in solidarity with the employees walking out.
“We are here today not because we don’t know how to take a joke,” Preston said. “We’re here because we’re concerned that the jokes are taking lives.”
Earlier this month, Netflix faced severe backlash for releasing Chappelle’s special “The Closer,” in which the comedian makes transphobic remarks and voices his support for anti-trans comments made by J.K. Rowling.
Last week, Netflix fired B. Pagels-Minor, an employee who co-led the Trans* employee resource group at the company and helped organize Wednesday’s walkout. Netflix claimed it was because Pagels-Minor had leaked confidential information.
People at the rally held signs that said “Team Trans” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.”
At the walkout, a handful of counter-protesters — who held signs saying things like “We like jokes” — were drowned out by Netflix employees and supporters chanting “Trans lives matter.”
In a statement Wednesday, Netflix said: “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused,” saying that the company has “more work to do” and supports employees who chose to walk out.
This was a markedly different statement than the memo CEO Ted Sarandos sent to staff earlier this month, in which he defended the special by saying “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” Later, Sarandos admitted to Variety that he “screwed up” in that message.
As the Verge first reported, trans employees at Netflix and their allies have made a list of demands for the company, including creating a fund to develop trans and non-binary talent; increasing investment in trans and non-binary content on Netflix; revising the company’s internal processes for releasing potentially harmful content; and acknowledging Netflix’s responsibility for the harm of its transphobic content.
“We shouldn’t have to show up quarterly/annually to push back against harmful content that negatively impacts vulnerable communities,” Preston said on Instagram ahead of the rally, noting the importance of “responsible content offerings that prioritize the safety and dignity of all marginalized communities.”