Ted Sarandos: ‘I Screwed Up’ with Chappelle Memos

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has claimed that he ‘screwed-up’ when he wrote memos to his workers defending Dave Chappelle‘s special The Closer and denying claims the show was transphobic.  

But Sarandos insisted he still backed the show itself, telling The Hollywood Reporter: ‘No, my stance hasn’t changed. I can tell you I screwed up those communications in two ways. One of them was, I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those emails that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made. 

‘And I, instead of acknowledging that first, I went right into some rationales. And so first of all, I’d say those emails lacked humanity, in which I like to and I do generally communicate with our teams.’

Netflix co-CEO admits that he ‘screwed up’ in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter after he sent memos to streaming service staff claiming that the content of Dave Chappelle’s special The Closer ‘doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.’

The CEO continued: I would say the other one was that — this is the problem when you have a leaked email out of context, is it’s part of a conversation already in progress, and that line of causing harm in the real world was way over simplistic and talking about something very specific that we were talking about earlier that day…

‘So it was just very clumsy, internal communications that went public.’ 

Addressing the controversy in the wake of the show’s premiere, Sarandos angered some Netflix staff and pro-trans viewers by insisting Chappelle’s comments ‘doesn’t translate directly into real-world harm.’

Chappelle said during his special that he agreed with JK Rowling, who has also been branded a transphobe.

He added: ‘Gender is a fact,’ and said: ‘I’m team TERF.’ TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, and is used by some trans activists to describe women who are not fully on board with all their calls for equality. 

Sarandos gave an interview to Variety on Tuesday, which saw him make very similar remarks.  

Sarandos made his remarks on the eve of a planned walkout by transgender Netflix staff and their supporters scheduled for October 20. It is unclear if that walkout will go ahead as planned.   

Dave Chappelle's special The Closer received controversy from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies for his 'transphobic' comments that were made during the special

Dave Chappelle’s special The Closer received controversy from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies for his ‘transphobic’ comments that were made during the special

He also noted that the email’s message was ‘out of context’ and that it was part of an ongoing conversation of the impact that onscreen content can have.

‘I 100 percent believe that content on screen can have impact in the real world, positive and negative,’ he added. 

Trans employees and allies with the streaming service planned a walkout on October 20 in response to the memos and the controversial special

Trans employees and allies with the streaming service planned a walkout on October 20 in response to the memos and the controversial special

‘When we think about this challenge we have to entertain the world, part of that challenge means that you’ve got audiences with various taste, various sensibilities, various beliefs.

‘You really can’t please everybody or the content would be pretty dull. And we do tell our employees upfront that we are trying to entertain our members, and that some of the content on Netflix you’re not going to like, and so this kind of commitment to artistic expression and free artistic expression is sometimes in conflict with people feeling protected and safe. 

‘I do think that that’s something that we struggle with all the time when these two values bump up against each other.’

Sarandos was also asked about how he would meet the artistic demands to protestors at the trans walkout.

‘Going forward, I want to make sure that everyone understands that we are deeply committed to supporting artistic freedom with the creators who work at Netflix.

‘We’re deeply committed to increase representation on screen and behind the camera, and we’ll always learn and improve on how to address these challenges as they arrive.’

Former Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings was fired after he leaked that the company paid $24.1 million for the special

Former Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings was fired after he leaked that the company paid $24.1 million for the special

Chappelle’s special saw three Netflix workers temporarily suspended, including Terra Field, after they attended a virtual executive meeting without authorization.

They were later reinstated.  

An unnamed worker was also fired for leaking that Chappelle had been paid $24.1million for the special.   

Hannah Gadsby calls out Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos for defending Dave Chappelle

The Australian lesbian comedian dragged Sarandos on Instagram:

‘Hey Ted Sarandos! Just a quick note to let you know that I would prefer if you didn’t drag my name into your mess. 

Now I have to deal with even more of the hate and anger that Dave Chappelle’s fans like to unleash on me every time Dave gets 20 million dollars to process his emotionally stunted partial world view. 

You didn’t pay me nearly enough to deal with the real world consequences of the hate speech dog whistling you refuse to acknowledge, Ted. 

F**k you and your amoral algorithm cult…

I do s**ts with more back bone than you. That’s just a joke!

I definitely didn’t cross a line because you just told the world there isn’t one.’  

Chapelle had backed author J.K. Rowling over her comments on gender, said ‘gender is a fact’, and announced ‘I’m team TERF.’ TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

The term is generally used by some trans people and their allies to attack others who disagree with some parts of their call for equality for transgender people.

Flashpoints include letting trans women into women’s prisons and domestic violence shelters, and whether trans female athletes should be allowed to compete against non-trans women in some sports, because of a perceived biological advantage.  

Sarandos also kotowed further to activists angered by the Chappelle special, who have demanded that Netflix produce more trans-related content. 

He said the streaming giant ‘was working hard to ensure marginalized communities aren’t defined by a single story’ specifically noting ‘we have Sex Education, Orange Is the New Black, Control Z, Hannah Gadsby and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself.’

He had addressed these concerns in the previously mentioned memos.

‘We know that a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix,’ Sarandos wrote in the email which triggered the criticism, obtained by Variety.

‘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,’ he continued.

Movie 365 Days, referenced by Sarandos, is about an Italian mafia boss who kidnaps a woman he’s infatuated with and demands she spend the next year in his villa.

The movie was slammed by survivors of sexual assault, with singer Duffy writing in an open letter to CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings that it ‘glamorizes the brutal reality of sex trafficking, kidnapping and rape.’

Sarandos’ memo continued, ‘The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. 

‘Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others,’ he said.

The memo was heavily criticized by LGBTQ+ watchdog group GLAAD who advocate for realistic and authentic portrayals of the community. 

 ‘Authentic media stories about LGBTQ lives have been cited as directly responsible for increasing public support for issues like marriage equality,’ they told Variety. 

‘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. Ironically, the documentary ‘Disclosure’ on Netflix demonstrates this quite clearly.’

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