Dave Chappelle's exhausting, transphobic, grievance-filled rant of a comedy special continues to be a problem for Netflix as news came out late last week that the Los Gatos-based company had fired a Black trans employee who was helping the organize a walkout protest related to the special.
If you haven't watched Chappelle's special, The Closer, you don't have to. And while the first third of it includes at least one funny bit about Martin Luther King directing activities at a glory hole, the entire thrust of the thing is about Chappelle's anger at the LGBTQ community for being angry at him. Or it's about his perception that the only people who get upset and try to cancel Black comedians are white people. Or it's about how he thinks he should be able to make juvenile jokes about trans people and also see their humanity and claim that he's an empathetic human being, all while saying a bunch of shit about how gender constructs are real and important to him. Roxane Gay may have summarized it best, saying, "This is a faded simulacrum of the once-great comedian, who now uses his significant platform to air grievances against the great many people he holds in contempt, while deftly avoiding any accountability."
Employees at Netflix are not all on board with CEO Ted Sarandos's defense of the company's decision to air the special, and in particular some trans people who work at the company are beside themselves with anger.
Now, as The Verge reports, one trans employee, who is Black, and who leads a trans resource group at the company that was organizing a walkout protest about The Closer, has been fired. The reason for the termination, the company says, is that this employee allegedly leaked confidential internal data about viewership of the special and how much the special cost the company — a reported $24 million.
"We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company,” Netflix confirmed in a statement. “We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company."
The terminated employee has requested that their name not be used publicly, for fear of harassment.
Another trans employee, Terra Field, was suspended from the company but subsequently reinstated after she reportedly attended a director-level quarterly business meeting to which she was not invited. And she has been vocal on Twitter throughout this controversy, calling out Sarandos and Netflix founder Reed Hastings.
Bloomberg, which ran a piece last week using the alleged leaked numbers, called the recent tensions at the company "an internal outcry unprecedented in its history." And the firing of the trans employee is not helping matters.
"All these white people are going around talking to the press and speaking publicly on Twitter," said one former employee, speaking to The Verge. "And the only person who gets fired is the Black person who was quiet the entire time."
And comedian Hannah Gadsby, whose name was invoked in Sarandos's memo to staff about all the LGBTQ-positive content hosted on Netflix, lashed back on Instagram in no uncertain terms.
"Fuck you and your amoral algorithm cult," Gadsby wrote.
Her message began: "Hey Ted Sarandos! Just a quick note to let you know that I would prefer if you didn’t drag my name into your mess. Now I have to deal with even more of the hate and anger that Dave Chapelle’s fans like to unleash on me every time Dave gets 20 million dollars to process his emotionally stunted partial world view. You didn’t pay me nearly enough to deal with the real world consequences of the hate speech dog whistling you refuse to acknowledge, Ted."
So far, Netflix has been holding firm in its decision to stream Chappelle's special, and Sarandos says that it doesn't "cross the line" into hate speech.
Many LGBTQ activists, writers, and Netflix employees have responded by saying that Chappelle's rhetoric is enough of an indirect incitement to violence against trans people that the special should be considered in violation of the company's policy against content that incites violence.
As TechCrunch notes, the employee walkout is still planned for Wednesday, October 20.
Top image: In this handout photo provided by Netflix, is a view of Netflix's headquarters located in Los Gatos on April 20, 2020 in Los Gatos, California. (Photo by Netflix via Getty Images)