UPDATE 10/12: Mere days after three Netflix employees were suspended— including a trans senior software engineer who criticized Dave Chappelle’s Netflix stand-up special The Closer — all three have been reinstated, as Variety reports. According to Netflix, they had been suspended and investigated for attempting to attend a meeting of top executives.
“Netflix has reinstated me after finding there was no ill-intent in my attending the QBR meeting,” formerly suspended employee Terra Field wrote on Twitter.
Netflix has suspended three employees — including a trans person who criticized Dave Chappelle’s recent special, The Closer — for allegedly trying to attend a meeting of top executives.
“It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show,” a Netflix representative tells Rolling Stone. “Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”
The suspensions came after the three employees reportedly tried to attend Netflix’s quarterly business review — which is meant for the company’s top employees — without having been invited or notifying the people who run the meeting. All three incidents involving the meeting are being investigated. The suspension of Terra Field — a queer and trans senior software engineer who spoke out against The Closer — was reportedly tied to that investigation, not her tweets.
Last week, Field shared a Twitter thread that criticized Chappelle for attacking “the trans community, and the very validity of transness — all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups.” Chappelle has come under fire for jokes about trans people in previous Netflix specials; his material about trans people in The Closer included an ostensible joke comparing trans peoples’ genitals to plant-based meat substitutes, and another where he proclaimed himself a TERF (a trans-exclusionary radical feminist).
In her thread, Field specifically pushed back on the notion that any objection to jokes like Chappelle’s were just people being “offended” or having “thin skin.” “The problem is that people are responding to something we never said,” Field said. “We aren’t complaining about ‘being offended’ and we don’t have ‘thin skin.’ You try going to a pharmacy and having them call you ‘sir’ in front of everyone while you pick up your estradiol. ‘Thin skin.’ ”
The problem is that people are responding to something we never said. We aren't complaining about "being offended" and we don't have "thin skin". You try going to a pharmacy and having them call you "sir" in front of everyone while you pick up your estradiol. "Thin skin" 🙄
— Terra Field (@RainofTerra) October 7, 2021
She continued: “What we object to is the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of color) and VERY specifically Black trans women,” Field said. “People who look like me aren’t being killed. I’m a white woman, I get to worry about Starbucks writing ‘Tara’ on my drink. Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act. This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be.”
Field did not return a request for comment, although, on Monday, October 11th, she tweeted, “I just want to say I appreciate everyone’s support. You’re all the best, especially when things are difficult.”
Field also appears to be just one voice of an internal uproar at Netflix over The Closer. Per The Verge, after the special’s release, employees began using Netflix’s open Q&A document to raise questions about how the company plans to navigate the line between commentary and transphobia. The comments eventually prompted a response from Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, who sent an email to employees on Friday, October 8th.
“Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate,” Sarandos said. “We don’t allow titles on 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. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited, but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
Sarandos also touted Netflix’s “commitment to inclusion” with titles like Sex Education, Young Royals, Control Z, and Disclosure. Although as one anonymous employee quipped to The Verge: “You can’t do a carbon offset for bigotry.”