Trans Employees at Netflix Plan a Walkout to Protest Dave Chappelle
It seems like most of the time over the last century or so, the battle for the nation's soul hasn't been fought at the ballot box, or in the courts, or out in the streets, but on stage. By the performers. We are primarily a pop culture culture. What we've brought the world more than anything is entertainment. And when there have been radical shifts in our values, it's most often shown up in our movies, TV, music and comedy.
There are examples too numerous to list them all. The morality codes in Hollywood in the 1930s, and then the loosening of the codes in the '60s, when people were watching Vietnam on the news every night and wondering why they couldn't see naked people at movie theaters. The Red Scare and Hollywood blacklists. Elvis bringing music to a generation of kids that their parents thought was subversive. Then those kids growing up to slap warning labels on their own kids' Rap CDs. Lenny Bruce going to jail for using words like "cocksucker" and "schmuck." The Me Too movement. And on and on.
And it feels like there is no more significant battlefront in the culture war right now than the one between comics and the people trying to put a stop to comedy they find offensive. Bill Burr has been at the forefront. Joe Rogan on his podcast. Ricky Gervais doesn't do a ton of stand up, but he's leaned into it when he has. And is the author of one of the most often quoted takes on the subject.
And no one has been leading from the front in this battle the way Dave Chappelle has. He's been running point ever since he came out of semi-retirement with his series of Netflix specials that just ended with "Closer."
And it's that above clip that is the tip of the bayonet. Those are the jokes that have created the most opposition from his critics and the most support from his fans. And there's no better illustration than this ranking on Rotten Tomatoes:
And if you think I'm overstating the case about how big a deal this all is, address your objections with Damon Wayans:
So yeah, I think it's significant. It's one of the most influential comedy voices of the last couple of generations on a platform that has changed the entertainment game forever pushing back against one of the great social movements of our time. It matters.
And I can't stress this enough because it should not be buried in all this. Anyone objecting to "Closer" has every right to. The best way to counter free speech you don't like is with your own free speech. But, YOU SHOULD WATCH THE END OF THE SPECIAL before you judge. Even if you just skip to the last five minutes. There's a reason for why Chappelle says what he says, he explains it, and it deserves to be heard.
All of which leads me to the point of all this, which the reaction by the people who work at Netflix and are most offended:
Source - Transgender Netflix employees are planning an Oct. 20 walkout from the streaming service in response to a bevy of ongoing issues that all connect back to 48-year-old Chapelle’s “The Closer,” according to the Verge.
The most prominent of the problems was the suspension of a trans senior software engineer, Terra Field, who slammed Chappelle for his humor about trans people in a viral Twitter thread.
A source told The Post that Field was suspended not for the tweets but instead for intruding, along with two others, into an executives-only meeting.
Field has since been reinstated “after finding there was no ill-intent” in her attendance, she posted.
“I’m going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I’m at. At the very least, I feel vindicated,” Field tweeted.
Despite that, Netflix’s trans employee resource group is still moving forward with a planned walkout next week, according to the Verge, which obtained their internal memo.
Honestly, I admire Terra Field and any other Netflix employee willing to take this stand. That's a bold strategy. Let's see if it pays off for them.
Sincerely, it can't be easy to take a tough moral stance against your employer like this. Being willing to risk your job in a stagnant jobs market when the company you work for is one of the letters in the acronym "FAANG," used to designated the firms that are running our entire economy takes a strength of character not many people have. It's admirable.
It's also not the best idea. Like I said when Spotify employees were demanding their bosses remove or edit Rogan's show, part of being an adult in the working world is knowing your place. Chappelle reportedly got paid $20 million for each of his specials. He got that much because Netflix understood they'll still turn a gigantic profit. Because the number of people who can do what Dave Chappelle does is limited to the population of Dave Chappelles in the world, which totals one. Giving Terra Field the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure she's a terrific senior software engineer. But the population of people who can do that job is in the hundreds of thousands. It's the Law of Supply and Demand. The people running the show have a huge Supply of potential replacements, so you're not in a position to bust into their meeting and make Demands.
It's hard to realize you're non-essential. But it's the reality all of us face unless we're a Chappelle or a Rogan. Those people who pay everyone else's bills. They're the ones the crime families refer to as "earners," so they get left alone. They become untouchables. Senior software engineers are not capos or even lieutenants. They're more comparable to the guys who go around to the loan sharks and collect the vig. If that.
So a big, heartfelt slow clap to anyone willing to walk out on Netflix on October 20th. Maybe it'll get their voices heard and change some hearts and minds. Though I think in the long run, it's the people like Chappelle trying to push us back to a time when we could all laugh at each other, and ourselves, and just generally lighten the fuck up, who are going to win this war. I sure hope so.