Last week, Dave Chappelle drew backlash for continuing his pattern of making derogatory jokes about transgender people in his Netflix special The Closer, but for now the streamer’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos is standing by his cash cow.
In an internal memo obtained by Variety, Sarandos vowed not to pull the special from Netflix, citing creative freedom. He also stated that the stand-up special doesn’t cross the company’s “line on hate” and delineated the “different standard of speech” that applies to stand-up compared to what is allowed internally.
“Chapelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him,” wrote Sarandos. “His last special Sticks & Stones, also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest, and most award winning stand-up special to date. As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”
Seemingly addressing internal criticism about the special, Sarandos defended The Closer for making social commentary. “Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate,” he said. “We don’t allow titles Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries.”
This statement stands in stark contrast to criticism from organizations like the National Black Justice Coalition, which last week called for the streamer to pull the special. “With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States — the majority of whom are Black transgender people — Netflix should know better,” NBJC executive director David Johns wrote in a statement. “Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence. Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community.”
Sarandos also addressed the different standards between artistic freedom and protecting employees in the workplace. “Externally, particularly in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace,” he said.
Read Sarandos’ full memo (via Variety) below the jump.