Ricky Gervais’ transphobic Netflix special may be causing controversy, but its release should come as no surprise at all.
After several controversies surrounding anti-trans programs, most notably Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, The nearer, Netflix seems to have decided that bigotry masquerading as “freedom of speech” can be a virtue, as long as audiences tune in. And what better troll can you imagine than putting out an anti-trans special just before Pride Month?
“There’s this intentional reduplication—like, We do controversial things; You act or you don’t act‘ a former employee told The Daily Beast. “I think Chappelle was the turning point where they finally take a stand instead of trying to waver in the middle.”
The shift wasn’t subtle. In fact, Netflix anchored its embrace laissez faire Discourse in its recently updated culture memo, which now tells staff they “may need to work on titles that you find harmful.” To justify the company’s continued support for Chappelle, CEO Ted Sarandos claimed last year that his executives believe that “onscreen content does not directly lead to real-world harm” — a notion supported by Netflix’s own documentary on Hollywood depictions of transgender people, disclosure, exposed.
As Netflix’s culture memo now reads, “If you’d find it difficult to support our breadth of content, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”
Shares of the streamer began falling earlier this month after the company reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter — the first drop in users in more than a decade. The financial downturn was preceded by two rounds of layoffs that reportedly affected hundreds of full-time employees and contractors. Departures appear to have been focused on marketing departments, including editorial staff Tudum and social brand channels like Strong Black Lead – teams predominantly staffed by women of color.
The popular narrative surrounding Netflix’s layoffs suggests that the company’s money problems may have brought the ax down, but a source told The Daily Beast that doesn’t really seem to be the case.
“They implied viewership channels would be decimated, and that was before that [quarterly] Call,” the former employee said. “So the call appears to be how they frame it to justify it [the layoffs]but it was something they were going to do anyway.”
Strong Black Lead’s success prompted Netflix to court other marginalized communities with voice-powered accounts like LGBTQ-focused Most, Latinx channel Con Todo, and AAPI-centric Golden. But the last few months of Netflix content have been both homogenous and, more importantly, according to multiple sources, downright bad. “So bad.”
Contrary to the popular narrative, a source argued, “I don’t think this is Netflix’s story targeting minority communities that they supposedly wanted to build — I think this is a company that’s completely bogus.”
“I don’t think this is Netflix’s story of targeting minority communities they ostensibly wanted to build — I think this is a company that’s completely dizzy.”
“You have to be honest and understand that this is not the right move to sack all these people of color and LGBTQ people are not the right move,” another source said. “The step is to finally figure out what the heck is going on in your content… You can’t just throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.”
In its most recent statement on the layoffs, Netflix wrote, “As we explained on earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we must also slow our expense growth as a company… These changes are being driven primarily by business needs, not individual performance. This makes them extra tough as none of us want to say goodbye to such great colleagues.”
Netflix presented its updated culture memo to employees at a town hall meeting. Contractors aren’t invited to these meetings, where an insider said the atmosphere was generally tense. The meetings “had this air of positivity, but there was actually a lot of tension,” the source said; Employees are reportedly allowed to ask questions, but do so cautiously, framing their concerns in company jargon rather than speaking directly.
When asked to describe Netflix’s typical response to the staff outcry, the source said there really was no answer.
“There is never a concrete next step. There is never a reinvestment in the community that has been harmed,” they said. “It’s always like, ‘We see you, we hear you, and we will continue to go to the Chappelle platform.'”
To prove how little Netflix seems to care about its employees’ concerns, look no further than the streamer’s response (or lack thereof) to last year’s employee strike.
In October, Netflix suspended three trans employees — including Terra Field, a trans engineer whose Twitter thread criticizing the company’s support for Chappelle went viral — only to reinstate them after a staff-led protest. Field announced her resignation soon after, when the company fired B. Pagels-Minor — a black trans worker who organized the protest and was pregnant at the time.
Netflix alleged that Pagels-Minor leaked confidential information to Bloomberg, a claim Pagels-Minor denied. The company’s trans employee resource group released a list of demands ahead of their protest, but Netflix never seems to have addressed them publicly.
As the demonstrations and public uproar unfolded last fall, the team behind Most – Netflix’s queer-focused Twitter channel – found itself in an intractable quandary.
“It was uncomfortable for all the obvious reasons,” said a source familiar with the team’s discussions. The staff behind Netflix’s social accounts, the insider added, “are privy to what’s coming in the pipeline. And there was nothing that could in any way significantly mitigate that.”
Even Netflix’s defense, its endorsement of the documentary disclosureWhen he came under fire disclosure Jen Richards issue settled that the streamer didn’t create or commission the doc, but “bought the streaming rights for less than half what it cost to make and relied on us to promote it.” Most of the cast, she added, were forced to pay for their own transportation to the Sundance Film Festival for the film’s world premiere.
In an attempt to build goodwill, the Most account fired up a short Twitter thread in mid-October.
“As queer and transgender people running this account, you can imagine the past few weeks have been rough,” the account tweeted. “We can’t always control what’s happening on screen. What we can control is what we create here and the POV that we bring to internal conversations.”
“We have read all of your comments and are using them to continue advocating for bigger and better queer representation,” the account continued. The statement ended on a cute note — “Ok, you can yell at us again now” — and Twitter happily complied.
As inevitable as they may seem in hindsight, the Netflix layoffs are also part of a larger struggle – one between a public that recognizes the damage hateful content is doing in the real world and, most importantly, the libertarian worship of “freedom of speech” in the real world Silicon Valley different. By eviscerating these social teams and tudum laying off hundreds of marginalized professionals with just a few weeks’ severance pay, Netflix seems to be sending a clear message about what (and who) it values. Looking to the future, a former employee expressed skepticism about the future of the company.
“They have no leadership and they have no sense of the kinds of stories they want to tell,” they said. “I don’t know where they’re going.”
A Netflix representative did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/netflixs-laid-off-workers-rail-against-tailspinning-company-say-diversity-not-a-real-priority?source=articles&via=rss Netflix’s laid-off workers blast the ‘tailspinning’ company and say diversity isn’t really a priority