Netflix has been plunged into America´s culture wars by a Dave Chappelle comedy special that raises concerns about free speech and censorship but has been slammed by its own employees as transphobic.
In “The Closer,” boundary-pushing mega-star Chappelle responds to critics who have accused him of mocking transgender people in the past by asserting that “gender is a fact” and accusing LGBTQ people of being “too sensitive.”
“In our country you can shoot and kill” a Black man, “but you´d better not hurt a gay person´s feelings,” says the stand-up comic, who is Black.
While the show has been condemned by LGBTQ groups — including GLAAD, which cited studies linking stereotypes about minorities to real-world harm — Netflix has so far stood firm, insisting the show will not be taken down.
But the streaming giant finds itself trapped at the center of arguably its most intense controversy yet.
Chappelle remains hugely popular, at a time when Netflix is competing with rivals such as HBO and Disney in the so-called streaming wars. He commanded a $24 million outlay from Netflix on his latest special, highlighting his appeal to the subscribers on whom the platform depends.
And the affair raises broader questions about acceptable speech — and the role of entertainment giants such as Netflix in policing it.
“Netflix is no longer a little company that mails out DVDs, it´s a vast maker of content that last year spent something like $17 billion,” said Stephen Galloway, film and media arts dean at California-based Chapman University.
“This is [Netflix´s] first really visible test case. And they stuck their flag in the grounds of free speech versus limiting speech,” he added.AFP