Terra Field, a trans Netflix employee who denounced Dave Chappelle’s “attacks [on] the trans community” in his new special “The Closer,” has elaborated on her criticism of the company’s defense for releasing the special.
On Monday, Field shared an online essay titled “It Was Never About Dave” on her Medium blog. Field begins the essay by recounting a similar internal backlash that followed Netflix’s release of Chappelle’s previous special “Sticks & Stones” in 2019.
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“Two years ago when ‘Sticks & Stones’ released, the Black and Trans* ERGs came together and held very candid and vulnerable discussions about how the transphobic content of [the special] contributes to a culture that marginalizes the Trans community and a culture that is particularly violent towards Black transgender women,” Field writes. “Two years later, ‘The Closer’ released and the same conversation started again… I felt like all the work we did after ‘Sticks & Stones’ was meaningless and that having the exact same internal dialog and pile of emotional labor from the Trans* ERG was just going to get us the same canned statement about ‘artistic freedom’ (and it did).”
Video: Dave Chappelle's Netflix special criticized for 'ridiculing trans people'
Field continues, clarifying that her criticisms are directed towards Netflix’s defenses for releasing the special. Last Wednesday, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos doubled down on his defense of the special, arguing that the company has “a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
“Dave [Chappelle] is not, and has never been, the cause of this problem — he is a symptom of it,” Field writes. “That [Chappelle] believes the things he says and can say them with relative impunity is a result of the culture we live in: a culture that marginalizes and devalues trans people. He contributes to that culture in a very real way, but at least he isn’t out there bragging about how many LGBTQ+ allyship awards he has won while he is doing it.”
“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,” Field continues. “How are we supposed to speak up for ourselves if we aren’t in the room? And how are Black trans women supposed to speak up for themselves if the company doesn’t employ any (that our ERG is aware of)?”Field concludes her piece by asking Netflix and other companies to “stop pretending that transphobia in media has no effect on society,” include content warnings for existing media containing transphobic material and provide trans talent with more visibility and opportunities.
Field was one of the first Netflix employees to voice her criticism of “The Closer,” posting a Twitter thread on Oct. 6 that has since gone viral. Our existence is ‘funny’ to him — and when we object to his harm, we’re ‘offended,’ Field wrote. “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.”
A group of trans employees and allies at Netflix will stage a company walkout on Wednesday in to draw attention to Netflix’s handling of issues involving the trans community. The protest has drawn the support of stars including Angelica Ross, Jonathan Van Ness, Jameela Jamil, Eureka O’Hara and Colton Haynes.
Read Field’s full essay here.
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