Ted Sarandos Doubles Down And I Have Words

Ted Sarandos arrives on the red carpet of The 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday, February 9, 2020. (Richard Harbaugh/©A.M.P.A.S.)

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos has doubled down in response to the backlash claiming that it won’t “translate to real-world harm.”

Here’s an excerpt from his staff memo:

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.

Here’s what I want to say to Ted Sarandos: this is not true. I cannot stress enough the amount of transphobic abuse I received in 2017 when I called out Dave Chappelle’s transphobic humor. Back in August 2017, he who shall not be named’s violently transphobic email was not the sole reason as to why I ended up in the hospital. In the weeks leading up to it, I was dealing with vitriolic transphobic abuse from Dave Chappelle fans. It was enough that I had to delete tweets in hopes of not getting any more harassment online. Too little, too late. There’s only so much harassment that one can take. When I read that Ted Sarandos doesn’t think Chappelle’s transphobic jokes doesn’t translate to real-world harm, it makes me want to puke.

Did you not watch Disclosure? It’s on Netflix right now. In fact, Netflix paid less than the film was worth. The filmmakers only accepted because the Netflix platform meant a wider audience. Netflix can and should be doing better to lift up trans talent and filmmakers. In fact, there are scenes from films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective that are among the most transphobic scenes in cinema history. By the way, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is streaming on Netflix. I bet there isn’t any kind of trigger warning before the film.

A lot of outlets are ignoring it but it’s not just the transphobia that is an issue. The antisemitism in the special is a serious problem. I the Jewish circles I run in, people are talking about the fact that nobody is really discussing the antisemitism. This comes at a time when hate crimes against Jews are getting worse. I mean, you can’t even post a photo from a brunch with Jewish friends without getting a gazillion death threats. This really happened in the past few weeks. This past summer, verified Twitter users were encouraging their followers to actively tease Jewish journalist. Do not give antisemitism a free pass. Do not tell me that it won’t translate to real-world harm when there is so much antisemitism on social media that some activists are stepping back. It’s emotionally exhausting right now.

Now that I have this out of the way, let me remind you of my open letter to Netflix published this past Monday. I’m grateful for those allies on the inside. Only one person reached out to my after I ran my piece but not until almost 48 hours later. They let me know that my concerns were both heard and shared. I’m glad that at least one person reached out because the silence for nearly two whole days was deafening. The Sarandos-triggered depression bled into my birthday and it’s not much better right now. Let me stress this: I really do not want to boycott Netflix. I’ve had a very good relationship with them over the past few years. I’m looking forward to movies such as Red Notice and Don’t Look Up. At the same time, it really hurt to feel like nobody was listening.

On October 20, I will be joining the trans employees of Netflix by not watching anything on the platform nor will I be responding to any Netflix publicity emails that day. To those cisgender allies working at Netflix, your emails can wait a day. To the cisgender film and television journalists, you can watch other screeners that day. Please listen to the transgender community.

Do not watch Netflix on October 20, 2021 to display solidarity with the trans community.

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.