Netflix is not having a great week—and CEO Ted Sarandos isn’t helping matters any by opening his mouth or hitting “send” on his memos. Amidst the increasing controversy surrounding accusations that Dave Chappelle’s new comedy special, The Closer, is homophobic and transphobic, Sarandos seems to be going out of his way to side with the comedian, while attempting to turn the conversation away from the offensive content of the special and make it a question of censorship and freedom of expression. On Wednesday, Variety published an internal memo from Sarandos that just made the whole situation even worse, as he noted:
“With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.) Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
Where to begin?!
Not only is Sarandos attempting to put words into his employees’ mouths by stating that “the concern is not about offensive-to-some content.” That’s precisely the issue for many Netflix staffers. Like Terra Field, the trans engineer who was one of three staffers fired after speaking out against the company’s decision to air Chappelle’s special, only to then be reinstated. At this very moment, the company’s trans employees and their allies are planning a walkout on October 20.
Then there’s the part about Sarandos’ “strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” First of all, he’s wrong. And doesn’t need to look much further than Netflix’s very own 2020 documentary Disclosure in which, per the company’s description, “leading trans creatives and thinkers share heartfelt perspectives and analysis about Hollywood’s impact on the trans community.”
As The Wrap reports, Sarandos’ memo has also caught the attention of GLAAD, one of the world’s most respected LGBTQ advocacy groups, who are calling Sarandos out for his extremely erroneous—and dangerous—view that there’s no connection between on-screen content and real-world actions. The group issued a statement, in which it noted:
“GLAAD was founded 36 years ago because media representation has consequences for LGBTQ people. Authentic media stories about LGBTQ lives have been cited as directly responsible for increasing public support for issues like marriage equality. But film and TV have also been filled with stereotypes and misinformation about us for decades, leading to real world harm, especially for trans people and LGBTQ people of color.”
GLAAD, too, pointed out the irony of the documentary Disclosure being a Netflix production, and tackling this very issue. As The Wrap notes, Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox appears in Disclosure and even cites a statistic from a GLAAD study which says that 80 percent of Americans don’t personally know any trans people. “So most of the information that Americans get about who transgender people are, what our lives are and are about, comes from the media,” according to Cox.
Netflix would not comment on GLAAD’s statement, nor is it commenting on Sarandos’ memo.
(Via The Wrap)