After the debut of Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special, “The Closer,” the comedian experienced swift backlash from the transgender community. Many people took issue with Chappelle’s comments about trans people in the special — notably his admission to being “team TERF,” which is a term used for people who claim to support equality for all women but limit that support to women who were assigned female at birth.
Organizations like GLAAD have come forward saying that Chappelle is transphobic and that the special should be taken off the streaming platform. Netflix employees organized a walkout to protest “The Closer” and to demand a more equitable workplace for transgender staff. On Oct. 20, Netflix workers walked out of the office, and online staff members went dark as well to support the walkout virtually.
In the days following, several celebrities have come out in support of the Netflix walkout. A new video called “Stand Up in Solidarity With Team Trans at Netflix!” was released and features supportive comments from celebs like Jameela Jamil, Mason Alexander Park, Kate Bornstein, Our Lady J, Sara Ramirez, Peppermint and Colton Haynes. The clip begins with Ashlee Marie Preston, who is credited as the organizer of the #NetflixWalkout movement.
The video quickly racked up more than 25,000 views less than 48 hours after it was posted.
Much of the backlash inside Netflix spurred from comments made by the company’s co-founder and co-CEO, Reed Hastings.
In an online internal chat room, Hastings responded to disgruntled employees about their concerns over the Chappelle special in a way that put the comic first over the complaints of his workers. These comments were later obtained by The New York Times.
“I do believe that our commitment to artistic expression and pleasing our members is the right long term choice for Netflix, and that we are on the right side, but only time will tell,” Hastings wrote.
Oscar-nominated actor and trans activist Elliot Page tweeted his support for the employees who are protesting, linking to the video. He said he hopes the company becomes “a more inclusive workplace” and said he stands with those who are trans, nonbinary and people of color that work at Netflix.
— Elliot Page (@TheElliotPage) October 20, 2021
Comedian Billy Eichner also offered his support for the Netflix walkout, retweeting a post from Preston and adding his own comments. “Sending my love and full support to all trans employees and their allies participating in the #NetflixWalkout today,” he wrote.
Eichner’s own series, “Billy on the Street,” is available for viewing on the streaming service.
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) October 20, 2021
Comic Wanda Sykes, who actually worked with Chappelle on “Chappelle’s Show” and her own series, “Wanda at Large,” followed suit. She retweeted Preston’s message about the walkout and praised the Netflix workers for “speaking truth to power.”
— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) October 20, 2021
Dan Levy of “Schitt’s Creek,” which currently streams on Netflix, responded in a similar vein, posting that television can be “vital … when it comes to influencing the cultural conversation.” He added, “Transphobia is unacceptable and harmful. That isn’t a debate.”
— dan levy (@danjlevy) October 20, 2021
For his part, Chappelle is currently on tour overseas, performing his material to sold-out crowd in London recently. The beloved entertainer has allegedly expressed a willingness to sit down and speak with the angered Netflix employees. He’s had a deep relationship with the company, releasing six original specials for Netflix since 2017.
“Dave stands by his art: No more jokes about transgenders until we can all laugh together,” an unknown rep told TMZ, notably using what GLAAD defines as a “problematic” term for trans people. “The streets are talking and Dave is listening. At some point, when everyone is open, I’m sure the communities will come together.”
As of the time of this publishing, “The Closer” is still available to stream on Netflix, along with the other comedy specials he’s done for the company.