Netflix: An Open Letter From A Transgender Critic

Courtesy of Netflix

It gives me great pain to write this open letter to Netflix but not even stand-up comedy is an excuse to defend transphobia on the platform.

I should be writing my review of Dune following this afternoon’s press screening. Instead, I turned on my phone and have been incensed with Netflix since shortly after the screening. Upon checking one friend’s Twitter, I learned from The Verge that a transgender employee was suspended for tweeting. If this wasn’t bad enough, I saw where Consequence of Sound picked up on the Variety memo and it only gets worse from there. Ted Sarandos, defending hate is not the side of history that you want to be on. Need I remind you that Netflix is the same streaming provider that decided to acquire trans trauma porn in 2018 following the backlash to the Cannes premiere.

This doesn’t even get me started on Dave Chappelle. You saw his stand-up comedy, saw that he included transphobic comedy, and were fine with his hatred appearing on your streaming service. I can think of plenty of comedians who are more deserving of a deal for stand-up comedy specials. Hell, I can think of transgender comedians that would love the opportunity to crush it on a special. But no, Chappelle doubles down on his hatred and gets transphobic in every special. The cycle keeps repeating and according to Variety, you’ve doubled down on being fine with his not-funny jokes at the expense of transgender bodies. Give me a fucking break!

Sarandos writes in a memo:

“We don’t allow titles Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe ‘The Closer’ crosses that line.”

This is bullshit and you know it. Look at the comments that Jaclyn Moore is receiving. Do not give transphobia a free pass under “artistic freedom.” Please listen to me. This doesn’t even begin to take Chappelle’s antisemitism into account. The antisemitism might be getting a free pass with many critics or viewers but not with me. It is not funny. Not now and not ever. We are living in 2021 and comedy is not an excuse for hate.

Not only does Chappelle double-down once again but he openly defends J.K. Rowling and says he’s on Team TERF. I don’t know if you noticed it but last summer provided Warner Bros. with a headache. All J.K. Rowling had to do was not spew transphobia or blame liking transphobic tweets on a middle-age moment. It’s a bullshit excuse and gave the studio a headache. And how does Netflix respond to the special? At first, deafening silence. I’ll note that I sent my piece from last week to publicists at Netflix. The response was the same deafening silence. And then I left the press screening to hear that a transgender employee and two others were suspended at Netflix.

While I am a transgender critic, I am also a filmmaker. I released a short film last year. Sure, I haven’t sold any of my feature-length scripts that are in various stages of writing but I’m still working on writing them. The Ted Sarandos memo–combined with the initial deafening silence–is enough to give me pause as both a critic and a filmmaker. Do I want to cover Netflix content going forward while knowing they have no problem with transphobic content on their platform? Awards season is already underway so I’m asking myself if I should boycott Netflix. If I’m talent, a filmmaker, or a television series showrunner, I would be thinking twice about working with Netflix right now. That Ted Sarandos is fine with excusing hatred in stand-up comedy is enough start looking at another studio.

Punching down is harmful in comedy. Nobody should be using comedy to be hateful. There is no excuse for transphobia or antisemitism in 2021. No excuse! I’d be calling this out if I saw it happen in any improv/sketch comedy performance. Shame on you, Netflix. Shame on you!

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.