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Seven months after dozens of Netflix staffers walked out of work to protest a Dave Chappelle comedy special critics called transphobic, the streaming service immediately came under fire by releasing a special from comedian Ricky Gervais, who jokes about trans women.
In SuperNature, Gervais jokes about trans women minutes into the special, saying “I love the new women… the ones with beards and c****,” before launching into a spiel about pronouns, bathrooms and sexual assault, according to the Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly.
Describing how Kevin Hart lost his Oscars hosting gig in 2018 due to resurfaced tweets, Gervais again brings up trans women, saying “the worst thing you can say today is, ‘Women don’t have penises,’ right? ….There are no 10-year-old tweets saying [that]
. You know why? We didn’t think we f****** had to!”
In another part of the special, Gervais says he “support[s] trans rights. I support all human rights, and trans rights are human rights,” and urges his audience to “live your best life” and “use your preferred pronouns,” before joking “but meet me halfway, ladies. Lose the c***.”
Netflix updated its staff corporate culture guidelines earlier this month, adding a portion about artistic expression that said employees “may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful” and that if that’s not acceptable, “Netflix may not be the best place for you.”
The streaming service reported subscriber losses for the first time in a decade last month, sending its stock plummeting, and laid off roughly 150 staffers last week.
“It’s hard to imagine a critical mass of people choosing this moment to cancel their Netflix accounts,” over Gervais’s special, Variety critic Daniel D’Addario wrote. “It’s increasingly plausible that, later this year, say, when Netflix demands credit for treating Elliot Page’s Umbrella Academy storyline with care or for greenlighting a new LGBTQ series for a fraction of what it paid Gervais, a large segment of the audience will understand that for the streamer, caring about the rights and the humanity of people just trying to live their lives is an act.”
After the pushback from Chappelle’s special The Closer, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos refused to remove it from the platform and defended it to employees, before admitting he “screwed up” his internal communication about the comedy show. Past complaints from employees did not stop the streaming service from working with the comedian. Chappelle performed this month at Netflix’s comedy festival, Netflix Is A Joke, and during the event he was attacked on stage. After his alleged assailant was removed, Chappelle purportedly joked that his attacker “was a trans man.”
Gervais is no stranger to controversy surrounding the trans community. In a 2018 Netflix special Humanity, Gervais made remarks about Caitlyn Jenner, who is transgender. In 2019 he came under fire for a series of tweets some critics called transphobic. Speaking on The Daily Beast’s The Last Laugh podcast in 2020, Gervais defended his jokes, saying “most offense comes from people who mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target. And they’re not necessarily the same… you know, ‘He’s making fun of a trans person, therefore he’s transphobic,’ which is very odd. That would suggest that you can never make fun of a trans person for any reason. Even if it had nothing to do with their trans-ness.” When his critics add “-phobic” to the end of a word, Gervais said he believes it means “they want you to shut up.”
Dave Chappelle Says He’s Willing To Talk To Transgender Netflix Employees But ‘I Said What I Said’ (Forbes)
Netflix Employees Plan Walkout Amid Chappelle Controversy (Forbes)