United States: Why are Netflix employees preparing to strike?

LGBTQ activists criticize Netflix for supporting comedian Dave Chappelle after his comments deemed transphobic.

The grumbling of Netflix employees. The management of the streaming giant was preparing Wednesday to face a walkout and a rally outside its Los Angeles headquarters. LGBTQ activists criticize the platform for its support for comedian Dave Chappelle and for his remarks deemed transphobic by some.

In “The Closer” released by Netflix, the stand-up star responds to critics who have accused him in the past of making fun of transgender people , saying that “gender is a fact” and that his critics are “too sensitive”. This show has been condemned by some LGBTQ groups who deplore supporting studies, the negative impact that the dissemination of stereotypes on minorities could have.

Terra Field, a transgender employee at Netflix, called on the company to precede “The Closer” with a warning on its content and to promote more “queer and transgender comedians and talent”. “A workplace can’t be a good place if you have to betray your community,” she wrote in a blog post.

Layoffs and layoffs at Netflix

In a memo addressed to employees, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-executive director in charge of content, said that what was broadcast “on the screen did not translate directly into harmful consequences in the real world” and that the principle of freedom of expression took precedence. T employees kings, including Terra Field, have been laid off to have broken into a virtual meeting of executives, before being reinstated. Another employee was fired for disclosing confidential information about the cost of “The Closer”.

For Netflix, the situation is unprecedented: several dozen employees called on their colleagues to go on strike, Wednesday, October 20, to demand the stopping of the broadcasting of the one-on-stage by American comedian Dave Chappelle, entitled The Close and uploaded to the streaming platform at the start of the month.

The American group spent $ 24.1 million (€ 20.7 million) to exclusively produce the seventy-two-minute one-man-show, the latest in a series of six that Dave Chappelle began in 2017. More than ten million views were recorded by Netflix ten days after the release of the program, approved 95% by the vote of Internet users on the site aggregating reviews Rotten Tomatoes.

Internally, The Closer has never been unanimous. Before its broadcast, revealed the Bloomberg press agency, several employees communicated to Netflix management their concerns about the content of the show: in question, a speech often deemed transphobic and homophobic, capable of provoking and accentuating discrimination against the LGBTQ + community.

For twenty-five years, Dave Chappelle has built his career on a sarcastic and often corrosive humor around relations between whites and blacks in the United States. “If you listen to what I’m saying, my problem has always been the Whites” , he assumes in The Closer , to the laughter of his audience, just after having defended himself to have never had “a problem with transgender people ” . The entire sole-on-stage turns like this, alternating brutal jokes and reminders of his sincere tolerance.

No content “inciting violence or hatred” allowed

He denies, in a sketch, having hit a lesbian woman at a party because of her homosexuality – “I didn’t even know it was a woman!” » – before recounting at length, in another, his friendship with a transgender person, who appreciated his humor and whose suicide after many discriminations touched him a lot. All strewn with clichés on “communities” (black, white, gay, transgender…) often ridiculed and necessarily uniform.

“The gays are a minority until the moment when they need to become again white” , he launches in addition, while recounting his altercation with a homosexual in a bar of Texas. Therein lies a motif already used by Dave Chappelle in his previous one-man-show, Sticks & Stones : the comparison of the claims of designated minorities – and the recognition of their discrimination by society. “In our country, you can shoot a black man and kill him, but you had better not offend a gay person. It is precisely the disparity that I wish to discuss, ” he explains in the introduction.

These rare observations in a spectacle “covered with stupidity” , as the author Roxane Gay wrote in a column published by the New York Times , did not lessen the anger of the associations defending LGBTQ + rights. “Maintaining transphobia is talk of violence” , has accused David Johns , the director of the National Black Justice Coalition, denouncing the spread of single-en-scene by Netflix. “Netflix’s rules say that content ‘inciting violence or hatred’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that is exactly what anti-LGBTQ content does , ” says Glaad, an NGO specializing in monitoring media treatment of these issues.

Netflix reaffirms its support for Chappelle

Within Netflix, three people requesting the withdrawal of the show were briefly suspended, in particular for breaking into a videoconference meeting of executives to which they should not have access. An employee, at the origin of the call for the walkout on Wednesday, was fired for having communicated to Bloomberg confidential indicators of the success of Chappelle’s one-man-shows on Netflix – we learned in particular that the “value” brought by Sticks & Stones was valued at $ 19.4 million by the company, less than the $ 23.6 million invested in its production.

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