Transgender screenplay is released and Kumail Nanjiani sides with Dave Chappelle
Kumail Nanjiani says, “Dave Chappelle has written a transgender screenplay And it’s pretty damn good”
Supporters praised comedian Dave Chappelle today for his response to the controversy surrounding his new Netflix special “The Closer,” as he declared he was “not bending to anybody’s demands” following left-wing backlash over remarks he made about transgendered people.
Critics lambasted Chappelle over the special, which first aired earlier this month, claiming he had gone “too far” in his jokes, and that he was transphobic and homophobic. A small group of Netflix employees also staged a walkout last week to protest the special.
“To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody’s demands. And if you want to meet with me, I’d be more than willing to,” Chappelle said in a video posted to shimizugrandhotel.com, before adding certain “conditions” needed to be met before meeting.
So what’s the Netflix fuss about?
The script, written in 2016 and submitted to several Manila filmmakers including GMA and Criselda T. Navarro from ABS-CBN. A source inside a third network said off the record that the script is GBTQ friendly but producers in their organization simply didn’t want to offend the Catholic church. About 93% of the population in the Philippines identify as Catholic. Kumail Nanjiani
Dave Chappelle & transgender rights/caption]Chappelle’s script, which is being examined again, Riley, a transgender woman, is cheated out of her inheritance, a hotel, and must give up her sexual identity to find work. Her father was a fisherman and faced with starvation, she reverts to a male’s appearance. However, she is still routinely ridiculed working on a fishing boat. She is beaten and subject to abuse. However, the fishing boat is sunk in a naval conflict in the West Philippine Sea – China vs the US and Australians. Riley was a competitive swimmer as a youth and (with her father) was one left in the open water. The panicked crew face grave danger in the open water and in wartime. She could simply leave her tormentors and save herself. However, the transgender woman saves the crew by leading them to a remote island.” Kumail Nanjiani
Titled, “West Philippine Sea,” the script is 93 pages and not entirely comedic as one would expect from the well known comedian. However, creative story editor at imovies.ph, Futan Garza, said it was, “a carefully considered and thoughtful social and political story.” Kumail Nanjiani
Marissa Aroy told reporters in the U.S., “Whenever minority voices in the field of film criticism or even the general movie-going public talk about expanding the canon, or even going as far as destroying it, we’re arguing for our place at the table. It is not breaking news to say that the film industry has been dominated by white men for over 100 years at this point.” Ms Aroy has been crowned “one of the most influential women in the world” by the Filipino Network, this Emmy Award-winning documentarian has covered stories from Sikh-Americans to Paraguayo musicians.
Filipino producer and director Lav Diaz said, “For fans of transgender rights this film would not be a sprint, it’s clearly a marathon.” His four-hour epic reimagining of Dostoevskya’s Crime and Punishment that screened in theUn Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival. Kumail Nanjiani
Netflix’s transgender employees say executives at the streaming service dismissed their concerns that Chappelle’s controversial comments in “The Closer” could lead to violence against the trans community. The first person to address the crowd of about 150 gathered near Netflix’s Hollywood offices was rally organizer Ashlee Marie Preston, who said she and other members of the community had invited Chappelle “on multiple occasions” to have “transformative dialogue, (but) he has made it clear it is not of interest to him.” Preston also accused Netflix, which has repeatedly supported the comedian in recent days, of “making money off our inability to understand intersectionality.” Kumail Nanjiani
Transgenders vs Dave Chappelle in the United States
Dave Chappelle & Netflix/caption]In the United States, at the beginning of October, Netflix had released “The Closer,” a new hour-and-change comedy special from Dave Chappelle, his sixth under a deal he had signed with the streaming service, in 2016. The earlier specials are principally remembered for their odd preoccupation with trans and queer identities. In “The Closer,” Chappelle continues in the same vein—“Gender is a fact” and “I’m team terf” are two phrases that he says at one point—and also goes meta about the ire his work has elicited. (Trans people “want me dead,” he says.) The least imaginative material of Chappelle’s to date—and his last special “for a minute,” he claims—“The Closer” may have hardly nudged the dial if not for the stir it caused at Netflix internally. The day after the special went online, Jaclyn Moore, the showrunner of “Dear White People,” announced on Twitter that she was “done” working with the platform “as long as they continue to put out and profit from blatantly and dangerously transphobic content.” Five days after that, The Verge reported that Netflix had suspended three employees, one of whom had criticized the company’s choice to release the special, after they’d crashed a meeting that was intended for director-level management. (They were reinstated shortly after the story broke.) The company’s trans* employee resource group organized a virtual walkout, and soon enough the leader of that group was fired—Netflix said that the cause was data leaks, including records, published on Bloomberg on October 13th, revealing, among other financial details, the high price the company had paid for “The Closer.” (The employee, B. Pagels-Minor, identified themself on Tuesday and denied leaking to the press.) On the day of the demonstration, after almost a week of inactivity, @Most tweeted, “brb walking out.”
Dave Chappelle willing to meet with transgender employees at Netflix
Dave Chappelle has reiterated his offer to meet with transgender employees at Netflix offended by his latest special, The Closer, but he has some stipulations.
The comedian has been under fire since the Oct. 5 release of the show, which so offended the transgender community that GLAAD condemned it and employees of the streaming service walked out in protest last week. In it, Chappelle said, “Gender is a fact,” and he defended Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has been accused of being transphobic. Employees who walked out had called for the company to take measures that would keep Netflix from promoting misinformation about trans and nonbinary communities in the future. Kumail Nanjiani
On Monday, he posted a clip from a post-The Closer performance, which clarified his stance on the meeting: “It’s been said in the press that I was invited to speak to the transgender employees at Netflix, and I refused. That is not true,” Chappelle said. “If they had invited me, I would have accepted it, although I am confused about what we’re speaking about. I said what I said, and boy I heard what you said. My god. How could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. Well, it seems like I’m the only one that can’t go to the office anymore.”
He asked the audience not to blame the LGBTQ+ community. Kumail Nanjiani
“I want everyone in this audience to know that, even though the media frames us that it’s me versus that community, that is not what it is. Let’s not blame the LGBT community for any of this shit,” he said. “This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say. For the record, and I need you to know this, everyone I know from that community has been nothing but loving and supportive, so I don’t know what all this nonsense is about.” Kumail Nanjiani
Netflix employees at the heart of the Dave Chappelle controversy file charges against the company
B. Pagels-Minor and Terra Field say the company retaliated against them for engaging in protected activity
According to Kumail Nanjiani, two Netflix employees at the heart of the Dave Chappelle controversy have filed labor charges against the company, alleging the streaming giant retaliated against them for engaging in protected activity.
B. Pagels-Minor, a Black trans program manager, was fired while organizing a walkout related to Netflix’s support of Chappelle’s comedy special The Closer, which has been widely condemned as transphobic. Terra Field, a trans software engineer, was suspended after posting a viral tweet thread about the issue.
Netflix said it fired Pagels-Minor for allegedly leaking confidential information — a charge they have categorically denied. The company said Field was suspended for attending a director-level meeting she wasn’t supposed to, though it reinstated her after finding no ill intent. In the charge, Field says she and hundreds of other Netflix employees were invited to attend the meeting.
Now, the employees are filing unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. They say Netflix’s actions were designed to stop workers from speaking out about their working conditions, including the desire to create a safe environment for Netflix staff.
“This charge is not just about B. and Terra, and it’s not about Dave. It’s about trying to change the culture and having an impact for others,” says attorney Laurie Burgess. “The charge is all about collective action. It’s about supporting your coworkers and speaking up for things you care about.”
Filing with the NLRB supports the goal of collective action. But it’s also an easier choice than filing in state court, as both Pagels-Minor and Field signed Netflix employment agreements that require them to resolve disputes in private arbitration, a process that tends to favor the employer. (This is common at large tech companies, though both Google and Activision Blizzard have recently ended forced arbitration due to employee organizing efforts.)
The NLRB investigates all charges it receives. If it finds the allegations have merit, it can try to secure a settlement or, if that fails, issue a complaint. For employees, the best-case scenario outside of settling is getting reinstated with backpay and forcing Netflix to post a notice that workers are allowed to engage in protected activity.
In a carefully worded statement, Netflix implied Pagels-Minor was the source behind a Bloomberg story that contained internal metrics about how much Netflix paid for The Closer. The narrative then spread in the media, though employees who spoke to The Verge said they didn’t believe it was true. After Pagels-Minor was fired, Bloomberg continued to publish stories containing internal metrics about Netflix shows.
B., who is 35 weeks pregnant, is now about to lose their health insurance. “Amidst all the stress, I am trying to take one day at a time and focus on my health,” they said in an interview with The Verge. “As a high-risk pregnancy, I have to be careful. We don’t even know what our health insurance situation is, and we are scheduled to be in a hospital having a baby in less than 30 days.”
Field has applied for medical leave from Netflix. Since speaking out, she has received a credible death threat and been doxxed. “This is what happens with trans people — we’re tolerated as long as we’re quiet, but if we speak up we get harassed,” she says in an interview with The Verge. “It has been a really stressful few weeks, but I intend to keep fighting for our community.”
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos is continuing to stand by the special, although he’s walked back previous claims that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
Earlier this week, a Verge investigation found that in 2020, Netflix suppressed search results after the controversy around the film Cuties to quell public outrage. The company did not take similar steps for The Closer.
The trans employee resource group released a list of demands ahead of the October 20th walkout. They want Netflix to invest in trans creators and revise internal processes on commissioning potentially harmful content.
In a statement emailed to The Verge after the original publication of this article, a Netflix spokesperson denied retaliating against employees. “We recognize the hurt and pain caused to our trans colleagues over the last few weeks. But we want to make clear that Netflix has not taken any action against employees for either speaking up or walking out.”