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'Not hate speech': How Dave Chappelle and Netflix are responding to transphobia controversy over standup special

By AYIE LICSI Published Oct 20, 2021 1:39 pm

Dave Chappelle and Netflix have been under fire after the company stood behind the comedian following an uproar from the LGBTQ+ community over his standup special, The Closer.

The streaming giant's co-CEO Ted Sarandos said Chappelle's derogatory comments didn't "cross the line," amid criticisms that it contained a number of transphobic jokes and remarks deemed harmful to the LGBTQ+ community.

As a result, Netflix's trans employees and allies planned a walkout in protest of The Closer on Oct. 20. Joining them outside the streaming giant's building are LGBTQ+ activists and celebrities. 

The trans employee who planned the walkout has also been fired on the suspicion of leaking metrics to the press about the special, according to The Verge.

'If this is what being canceled is, I love it'

What did Chappelle say in his 72-minute special to warrant such backlash?

The 48-year-old stand-up comedian defended noted transphobe J.K. Rowling and openly declared himself as "team TERF," which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist—people who argue that trans women aren't women.

He also compared Caitlyn Jenner winning "Woman of the Year" to blackface, called trans women's vaginas "Beyond P***y or Impossible P***y," and made jabs at white gays, lesbians, and the #MeToo movement.

At the screening of his new documentary last Oct. 8, Chappelle addressed the backlash toward the special.

"If this is what being canceled is, I love it," he said, brushing off the criticism. "I don't know what to tell you except I'm a bad motherf*cker."

'Not hate speech'

In the face of walkouts, Netflix's Sarandon issued a statement on Oct. 8 saying The Closer is just "by nature highly provocative" to some.

"As a leadership team, we do not believe that The Closer is intended to incite hatred or violence against anyone (per our Sensitive Content guidelines),” he said.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos

More recently, Sarandos told Variety on Oct. 19 that he doesn't believe the content of the special falls into hate speech.

"We are trying to support creative freedom and artistic expression among the artists that work at Netflix," he said. "sometimes, there will be things on Netflix that you dislike. That you even find to be harmful. Where we’ll definitely draw the line is on something that would intentionally call for physically harming other people or even remove protections."

"Under the definition of 'does it intend to cause physical harm?' I do not believe it falls into hate speech," the CEO said about Chappelle's special.

He also said that there are no plans to remove the special from the streaming platform.