The streamer is still struggling to handle the fallout from the comedian’s controversial stand-up special.
Netflix is still struggling to handle the fallout that has come with Dave Chappelle’s most recent stand-up special, The Closer. In a leaked memo obtained by The Verge, the company has provided a guide for recruiters at the company on how to handle potential discussion around Chappelle and his show that courted controversy last fall over its transphobic material and resulted in a walkout from Netflix’s own employees.
The memo is broken into three sections — “Pointers,” “Talking Points,” and “Netflix and Inclusion” — that offer a kind of roadmap on addressing questions from candidates while promising a commitment to inclusion. “Avoid commenting directly on The Closer, since Netflix is not commenting publicly about it,” one of the pointers at the top of the memo reads. The memo is not “intended to be a script,” though it offers specific lines ostensibly meant for recruiters to use. “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused,” one talking point reads.
The internal document is another indication of just how deep and lasting the ramifications from Chappelle’s polarizing special have been. Amid a conflicted public and critical reception over the The Closer when it was released in early October, three employees were suspended, including one who is trans (the employee, Terra Field, later resigned) and another trans worker was fired for supposedly leaking confidential information, though the employee, B. Pagels-Minor, has contested the claim. Amid the outcry, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, publicly and through communication with his own employees, backed Chappelle and the streamer’s decision to host the show. In late October, dozens of employees conducted a walkout in Los Angeles, a planned move that was supported by a public protest.
The talking points in the memo offer lines meant to specifically address some of these major incidents within the Closer saga. On the termination of the Pagels-Minor, the lines read, in part: “We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company. We understand they may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.” On the walkout: “We respect the decision of any employee who chose to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”
Notably, the memo never mentions Chappelle’s own name in its talking points or pre-written lines, referring only to the title of The Closer.
These lasting consequences only further highlight Netflix’s many avoidable missteps over the entire fiasco. After all, despite the misguided conversations around “free speech” and “cancel culture,” activists and employees from within the company were never claiming to ask Netflix to deplatform the show or “censor” Chappelle.
“We’re not asking you to take down the content,” Pagels-Minor said about Netflix in an interview after she was fired. “We’re asking you to potentially put a trigger warning on that content but also to look into investing time and money in creating content that shows the other side of the story.”