Netflix Co-CEO on Chappelle Controversy: 'I Screwed Up'

Ted Sarandos says his defense of comedy special lacked humanity
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2021 10:05 AM CDT
Netflix Co-CEO on Chappelle Controversy: 'I Screwed Up'
Director Jane Campion, left, and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos pose together at a special screening of "The Power of the Dog" at Alice Tully Hall in New York on Oct. 1, 2021.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

(Newser) – A trans Netflix employee who was among the first to speak out about the $24.1 million Dave Chappelle comedy special The Closer directs her criticism toward Netflix's defense of the show in an essay published Monday. "When a company like Netflix says something like, 'We do not believe this content is harmful to the transgender community,' you can be virtually certain that not a single trans person was involved in that decision," wrote Terra Field. "How are we supposed to speak up for ourselves if we aren't in the room?" Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos responded to that and similar criticism Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's employee walkout in pursuit of change, admitting he "screwed up."

"I should have led with a lot more humanity," Sarandos told Variety. "I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn't do that." He noted that the company put out "a blanket statement" that was meant "to answer some really specific questions that were floating" but landed "very differently than it was intended." Sarandos repeated, however, that he doesn't believe the special "falls into hate speech," even if it may be considered "harmful" to some. "Where we'll definitely draw the line is on something that would intentionally call for physically harming other people or even remove protections," he said.

Field didn't request the special's removal but called on Netflix and other companies to "stop pretending that transphobia in media has no effect on society," include warnings on transphobic content, promote "other queer and trans content after people consume that content," and elevate queer and trans talent overall. "We have and continue to invest enormous amounts of content dollars in LGBTQ+ stories for the world and [give] them a global platform. Specifically, trans and non-binary content as well," Sarandos told Variety. He added, "I'm committed to continuing to increase representation on screen and behind the camera, and I'm always open to learn and improve on how to address these challenges." (Read more Netflix stories.)

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