The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

Netflix stages walkout over Dave Chappelle’s new special


Several weeks of discussion and outrage culminated in a large crowd of Netflix employees and others staging a walkout on Wednesday. The employees, going by “Team Trans”, were angered by comments made by comedian Dave Chappelle in his new special “The Closer,” which premiered on the streaming platform in early October. 

In Chappelle’s set, he called himself both a “transphobe” and “Team TERF,” referring to trans-exclusionary radical feminists. 

Terra Field, a trans Netflix employee, says the LGBQT+ outrage for the special is about “the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of color) and VERY specifically Black trans women.” 

Despite the vocal outcry, Chappelle is “standing by his art,” said a representative to Yahoo! Entertainment. 

Others have turned this into a matter of freedom of speech. In an article about Chappelle, Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune wrote about author JK Rowling, who was also mentioned in Chappelle’s special for making transphobic remarks.  

Page said of Rowling, “I don’t share her [views], by any means, but I do defend her right to express it without being viciously attacked.”

Rowling’s comments which were made on Twitter exist in a completely different space than Chappelle’s.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about how freedom of speech applies to social media. Too many people seem to forget that these are private companies with terms of service and that the first amendment was made to protect citizens from the government, not companies. Or as Chappelle puts it in his special, “Twitter is not a real place.”

However, both of those things are irrelevant when looking at Netflix. Netflix is a media company, not a social media company. People can’t post whatever stupid thought comes into their mind on the site. They produce and stream shows and movies. 

Everything that is on there was okayed by some head of some media company, be it Netflix or the CW or CBS. Chappelle’s special, though not as scrutinized as scripted productions, is no exception. It was part of a deal signed in 2016. 

This brings up the bigger issue that exists within media production. For the most part, the media is made by those who have the money and power to fund it with their views at the forefront. 

Joey Soloway, a nonbinary writer, and producer for the Amazon Prime show Transparent, who participated in the Netflix protest, said they “wanted trans representation on the Netflix board. A trans person on the f-ing Netflix board this f***ing week.”

For minorities to be represented, they have to be part of the conversation, in writer’s rooms and on production boards. 

Chappelle may claim he is not “punching down” when he is making jokes about trans people, but despite leaps of progress being made over the last decade, they are still at a clear disadvantage. Chappelle normalizing transphobia and TERF ideology through his specials is not helping. 

Chappelle ends his set on trans people talking about Daphne Dorman, a trans comedian friend of his. Chappelle said she was “one of the coolest people [he] ever met.”

He goes on to describe a show he did where Dorman was the opening act. After her set, she sat in the audience and (drunkenly) talked to Chappelle during his set, “and then the show became something cooler than a show,” Chappelle said. “It became like a conversation between a Black man and a white trans woman and we started to get to the bottom of s**t.” 

That story is how representation should be: All sides getting to have their say. It should be a conversation.

Chappelle ends his special with the promise to “not [tell] another joke about [the LGBQT+ community] until [they] are both sure [they] are laughing together.”

Maybe Chappelle should have followed that advice before this show because the Trans community is not laughing with him. 

Trans voices need to be heard, and these protests show they want to be part of the discussion. 

Chappelle should use his platform to create this conversation, not tear it down further. 

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