Netflix was a lightning rod for controversy in the weeks that followed Dave chappelleThe latest comedy special premiered on the platform, but the CEO of Netflix Ted sarandos supports the project, which has been criticized for Chappelle’s jokes about the transgender community.
Sarandos said The Hollywood Reporter in an interview Tuesday night, while Chappelle’s special was in line with Netflix’s stance on “artistic expression,” he believed he had responded poorly to the controversy by internal communications with Netflix staff. The interview came after several weeks of controversy over the Chappelle special, which was criticized by organizations including GLAAD and The National Black Justice Coalition, as well as Jaclyn Moore, executive producer of Netflix’s popular “Dear White People” .
As the controversy grew, Sarandos contacted Netflix staff via two internal memos; the CEO claimed that “the content does not translate directly into real-world damage” in one of the memos, which sparked further criticism. Chappelle’s controversy and Sarandos memos prompted Netflix trans employees and trans allies to plan a walkout in protest against the special. Sarandos told The Hollywood Reporter he regrets his attempt to contact the staff.
“I can tell you that I messed up these communications in two ways,” Sarandos told The Hollywood Reporter. “One of them was that first and foremost I should have recognized in these emails that a group of our employees were suffering and they felt really hurt by a business decision we made. And I, instead of acknowledging it first, went straight into some reasoning. And so first of all, I would say that these emails lacked humanity, in which I like and generally communicate with our teams.
As for the second part, Sarandos said the leaked email was “out of context” and part of an ongoing effort by Netflix to discuss the real impacts of its film and television programming. Sarandos’ original comment on the real impact of Netflix content was particularly controversial and the CEO returned to that belief in The Hollywood Reporter interview: “I 100% believe that on-screen content can have an impact. in the real world, positive and negative, ”Sarandos said.
“When we think about this challenge, we have to entertain the world, part of that challenge means you have an audience with different tastes, different sensibilities, different beliefs,” Sarandos told The Hollywood Reporter. “You really can’t be appealing to everyone or the content would be pretty boring. And we tell our employees up front that we try to entertain our members, and that some content on Netflix will not please you, and so this kind of commitment to artistic expression and free artistic expression sometimes conflicts with people feel protected and safe. I think this is something we struggle with all the time when these two values collide with each other. “
Sarandos was asked whether Netflix would be willing to adopt any request the trans employee resource group is expected to make on Wednesday, but did not provide details on how Netflix might change its operations in response to the Chappelle controversy.
The Hollywood Reporter’s full interview with Sarandos can be read here.
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