Dave Chapelle special leads to walkout

Dave+Chappelle

John Bauld | Flickr

Jahlil Rush

Dave Chappelle’s special, “The Closer,” was released on Netflix on Oct. 5 and sparked huge controversy and led to walkouts of Netflix employees due to the jokes about the LGBTQ+ community, which were found highly offensive.

Some Netflix Inc. employees staged a walkout on Oct. 20  to protest the comedy special where Chappelle made antitransgender comments. Protesters were joined in solidarity by allies who cried out, “trans lives matter.”

Terra Field, a software engineer at Netflix, showed her criticism by posting tweets critical of Chappelle’s special immediately after it aired and the comments were widely shared.

Field said that Chappelle was being criticized for the potential harm  that his remarks can have on the trans community, especially towards Black women.

Ashlee Marie Preston, a key figure in the protest who organized the event, said that she along with others, reached out to Chappelle to speak to them but were denied. Preston also stated that calling out the comedian’s comment is not enough.

“It was important to shift the focus to the people that sign the checks, because Dave Chappelle doesn’t sign checks, Netflix does,” Preston told the AP.  “If we have companies like Netflix who aren’t listening to their employees, who are forcing their employees to participate in their own oppression, that’s unacceptable.”

She continued by saying, “We’re here to keep people accountable. We’re not going anywhere.”

Joey Soloway, the creator of the 2014 series “Transparent,” argued that Chapelle’s jokes crossed a line, comparing the struggle of trans people to the Holocaust.

“Trans people are in the middle of a holocaust,” Soloway said  to the crowd according to Variety. “Apartheid, murder, a state of emergency, human rights crisis, there’s a mental health crisis. There’s a suicide crisis, a bullying crisis, an anxiety, depression, self-hatred state of emergency crisis. But trans people are also out here dreaming. Dreaming of safety, dreaming to be alive, to be human, to belong and to have some time, which is privilege.”

Soloway also called on Netflix to add a person from the trans community to Netflix’s board of executives.

During this controversy, Chappelle has found allies, Netflix’s top executives, who decided to stand by the comedian. They have sent out messages to staff members and pushed back on claims that Chappelle’s comments could inspire violence towards the transgender community.

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos issued an apology for his communication to staff about Chappelle’s comedy special, saying that he “screwed up” and should have taken consideration of his employees’ “pain.”

Sarandos spoke to the Hollywood Reporter in a phone interview where he asserted that Chappelle’s special was in line with Netflix stance towards “artistic expression.” Sarandos also said that the idea of putting a disclaimer on “The Closer” would not be appropriate.