Netflix's Ted Sarandos: Chappelle's Jokes Don't Equal 'Real-World Harm'

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday October 17, 2021
Originally published on October 15, 2021

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos  (Source:Instagram / @tedsarandos)

The saga around Dave Chappelle's Netflix comedy special "The Closer" continues for another day. This time, co-chief executive officer and chief content officer Ted Sarandos is coming to Chappelle's defense with some shoddy logic.

Sarandos said Chappelle's jokes, which many perceived as transphobic and homophobic, don't "directly translate to real-world harm," writes Variety.

"We know that a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle's latest special on Netflix," Sarandos wrote in the email obtained by Variety. "With 'The Closer,' we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.) Last year, we heard similar concerns about '365 Days' and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn't directly translate to real-world harm."

Several Netflix employees are reportedly planning a walkout on Oct. 20 over the company's handling of the comedy special and its reception — which included the company suspending employees and resulted in a transgender producer severing ties with the streaming company.

GLAAD and The National Black Justice Coalition have spoken out and urged Netflix to pull the comedy special from its platform. But, so far, these requests have only encouraged to the company to double down.

"The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries," explained Sarandos about the connection between what happens on screen and real life. "Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse — or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy — without it causing them to harm others."

Even Netflix's LGBTQ Twitter account chimed in to comment on the internal strife.

"To be clear: As the queer and trans people who run this account, you can imagine that the last couple of weeks have been hard. We can't always control what goes on screen," the account wrote. "What we can control is what we create here, and the POV we bring to internal conversations."