Netflix Employees, Counterprotesters Clash in Tense Walk-Out Over Dave Chappelle Special

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Netfilx protest
Samson Amore

Dozens of Netflix employees and LGBTQ supporters walked out of the streaming giant's offices in Hollywood this morning in protest of comedian Dave Chappelle's incendiary new special "The Closer." They were met by a group of Chappelle supporters who carried signs like "jokes are funny" and things quickly turned tense.


At one point, a pro-Chappelle protester shoving his way towards a microphone the activists supporting the Netflix employees had set up was pushed back and there was a brief tussle before several pro-trans activists stood in the way. One of the activists threatened, "I will beat you down." The protester backed off but shortly afterwards got into another confrontation with a pro-trans rally attendee, almost knocking them over before exiting the area.

Netflix protestersCounter-protesters showed up at the walkout.Photo by Samson Amore

Chappelle's special debuted on Netflix Oct. 5, and the internal battle at Netflix has been raging since. Several Netflix employees declined to go on the record out of fear of retaliation.

B. Pagels-Minor, a former Netflix programmer and Black, trans and nonbinary person who is 33-weeks pregnant, was one of the original organizers of the walkout alongside transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston.

Pagels-Minor said they were fired Oct. 14 after being accused of leaking private financial information to Bloomberg. Pagels-Minor denies involvement in the leak and told dot.LA they were fired roughly two and a half hours after the walkout was announced.

"How can you have transphobic content and not have counter-content that specifically shows trans lives," Pagels-Minor questioned. "Like most people, I didn't think it was very funny," Pagels-Minor added. "I'm a black trans person, and Dave Chappelle seems to think those people don't exist."

The walkout organizers' demands include creating a new fund for investing in transgender talent, revising internal policies to determine what content on the streamer is "harmful," and hire more transgender executives.

"Transparent" showrunner Joey Soloway addresses the rally.Photo by Samson Amore

Netflix has social media accounts to promote its LGBTQ+ storytelling that posts under the handle Most. Ahead of the protest, it tweeted: "brb walking out."

"Trans people are in a Holocaust. But trans people are also out here dreaming of safety, dreaming of time, which is a privilege… time to imagine, create, to write their stories," said Joey Soloway, a showrunner for Amazon's Emmy Award-winning series "Transparent" who attended the rally. "The line is simple: Stop making things worse."

In his new show, Chappelle called himself "Team TERF" (Trans-exclusionary radical feminism), a term that's used for people who, among other things, don't believe transgender women are women. "TERF" is a term that's also been used to describe "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, whose own anti-transgender missives have caused a stir in recent years. Chappelle was keen to align himself with Rowling in "The Closer" and spent a sizeable portion of his special arguing against transgender people's right to exist, claiming sex and gender are "a fact."

The backlash on social media to Chappelle's comments was swift. Netflix's "Dear White People" showrunner (and transgender woman) Jaclyn Moore tweeted the day after "The Closer" aired that she was leaving the company. "I will not work with them as long as they continue to put out and profit from blatantly and dangerously transphobic content," Moore said. Several other Netflix employees have vocally opposed the special on social media.

LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD criticized the special after it aired and said, "Dave Chappelle's brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities."

Netflix has addressed the issue – CEO Ted Sarandos made it clear Netflix wouldn't drop "The Closer" from its platform since Chappelle is one of their top performers – and Variety reported last week Sarandos also said the streamer has "a strong belief that content on screen doesn't directly translate to real-world harm."

Chappelle's jokes have targeted transgender people before. Daphne Dornan, a transgender actress living in San Francisco, was the butt of Chappelle's jokes in his past special "Sticks and Stones" and again in "The Closer." Dornan, who was a comedian, died by suicide in October 2019 and left behind a young daughter.

Burbank City Councilmember Konstantin Anthony warned that Netflix's decisions could harm its larger ambitions and echoed support for a boycott.

Netflix recently inked a lease for a 170,000 square foot animation studio in Burbank. Anthony said he'd advocate for the company's transgender employees in the area.

"We don't need millions and millions of dollars backing those words," Anthony said at the rally.

Follow dot.LA reporter Samson Amore's coverage on Twitter @Samsonamore.

This story has been updated to clarify how the tussle unfolded.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

Read moreShow less

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

Read moreShow less

How ‘Funny Water Company’ Liquid Death Made H2O Worth $700 Million

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

How ‘Funny Water Company’ Liquid Death Made H2O Worth $700 Million
Liquid Death Files Paperwork to Raise $15 Million

When Santa Monica-based Liquid Death launched with funding from neighboring venture capital firm Science Inc. in 2018, the Los Angeles startup world – and everyone else – had nothing but jokes. But with the company’s latest $700 million valuation, it appears the joke is on the rest of us.

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending