Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos wasted no time quintupling—are we at “quintuple” at this point? Hextupling? Infinitupling?—down on his support for comedians Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais this weekend, referring to his defense of the presence of both men’s transphobic comedy material in the Netflix library as a “liberal issue.” This, after he was asked by The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, as part of a much longer profile investigating Sarandos’ position as Netflix faces some of the rockiest months in its history, about becoming a “conservative hero” for platforming and stridently defending Chappelle and Gervais’ work.
Netflix and Gervais colluded to re-ignite the controversy surrounding the streamer earlier this week with the release of the comedian’s new special SuperNature, in which Gervais trotted out some old-school transphobic hackery, featuring the only punchline such “comedy” ever hopes to aspire to, i.e., “Isn’t it absurd that these women say they’re women?”
In the Times piece, Sarandos addressed most of his specific defenses toward Chappelle, before clarifying that anything he said about one of the two comics also applied to the other. Including an assertion that, “Nobody would say that what he does isn’t thoughtful or smart,” a sentence in which the word “Nobody” is doing a fucking cubic truckload of work.
As usual, Sarandos doesn’t appear to have dipped into his own views on trans rights for the piece, instead phrasing Chappelle and Gervais’ transphobic commentary as “disagreements” with the people hurt by it. (“You just don’t agree with [them],” he noted.) He also asserted that Netflix wants to have “something for everybody,” including, the implication goes, people who agree with the comedians’ continuing stream of transphobic jokes.
The Chappelle/Gervais conversation is just a small portion of the much larger piece, which is largely concerned with asserting that Ted Sarandos is a Good Guy who Loves Movies and Loves Comedy and also sometimes you just lose a few hundred thousand subscribers, right? Among other glowing comments from Sarandos’ various industry buddies, Dowd quotes Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings, who expressed his ongoing support for his former chief content officer. (The piece also lightly sketches a corporate culture at Netflix where constant growth is valued way more than anything like personal loyalty—somewhat ironic given the way Wall Street shanked the company earlier this year at the first sign that subscriber numbers might be on the decline.)