Dave Chappelle has been celebrating the release of his latest Netflix special The Closer. Since its release, he’s been gearing up for a sold-out tour, various appearances, and more. However, the special has been a magnet for controversy since its release, with many trans-rights groups calling both it and the comedian harmful. A recent protest occurred in front of Netflix’s Los Angeles offices where various LGBTQ rights groups are seeking demands from Netflix, including the removal of Chappelle’s special. Now, these groups are claiming that Chappelle ghosted them in their attempts to rectify the controversy.
Earlier this week, it was announced that an employee walk-out would take place in support of those who were affected by Netflix’s handling of the Chappelle special. The leader of the walk-out, who was also an employee at Netflix and the leader of the trans employee resource group, was subsequently fired for allegedly releasing private company information to the media. In a letter written by Netflix employees, they listed demands for more trans-inclusive content as well as the adoption of safety measures for employees. The letter also specifically states they want the recruitment of more trans people, highlighting the need for more BIPOC, for leadership roles in the company. Additionally, they want the elimination of all imagery in any way of any harmful and transphobic material. Seemingly, this includes all Dave Chappelle posters and/or murals and swag around the office. They would also like for a disclaimer to be listed before what they deem transphobic titles.
A few Netflix stars and various LGBT actors issued their support as well on social media including Elliot Page and Lilly Wachowski. Ahead of the staged employee walkout, Netflix issued a statement saying that they “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,” the statement read. Moreover, transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston also organized a rally that would take place outside of Netflix’s offices in support of the employees and those who were upset over the special. The purpose of the rally was to present Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos with the list of demands from the Netflix employees.
“Cross-cultural solidarity is an indomitable force that moves all of us forward,” she wrote in a tweet before calling on others to join. A number of people, including allies, did show up in support of the rally. But who was noticeably missing was Dave Chappelle. According to Preston, Chappelle was invited to the rally and chose to not be present. “The reality is, I invited Dave Chappelle to have a transformative dialogue about the harm that was committed,” she said. “He chose to not show up. So that’s not cancel culture, that’s avoidance of accountability.”
Preston takes Chappelle’s absence as him not being interested in having the conversation. Thusly, she mentions that his absence makes it clear, so it’s not their responsibility to have a conversation with him, but “the people who sign the paycheck. And that’s Ted [Sarandos],” she states.
Ashlee shares that she has spoken to Sarandos, but there has been no “tangible action” to make a move on their demands. So they are on a mission to reinforce it. According to TMZ, however, Dave Chappelle is actually interested in having a discussion with Netflix employees. His camp issued that no one has offered to speak with them about the hurt they feel the special has caused.
Additionally, Ted Sarandos is speaking out about how he feels he handled the fall-out. Sarandos feels that he “screwed up” internal communications within the company in two ways. He says in an interview with Variety that he should have led with humanity. “I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made, and I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn’t do that,” he admits. Sarandos has stated before that Netflix stands by the special and has no plans to remove it in the future.