Hannah Gadsby condemns Netflix as an ‘amoral algorithm cult’ amid Dave Chappelle controversy

Australian comedian’s specials Nanette and Douglas were released on the streaming service

Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby has hit out at Netflix and its co-chief executive Ted Sarandos, accusing him of dragging her name into the controversy over the company’s release of Dave Chappelle’s standup special The Closer, which has been condemned for including jokes about the transgender community.

Describing the streaming service as an “amoral algorithm cult”, Gadsby took to social media to condemn Sarandos for bringing up her comedy specials while defending the company’s support for Chappelle.

“Just a quick note to let you know that I would prefer if you didn’t drag my name into your mess,” she wrote on Instagram in a note addressed to Sarandos.

“Now I have to deal with even more of the hate and anger that Dave Chapelle’s fans like to unleash on me every time Dave gets 20 million dollars to process his emotionally stunted partial world view.”

Sarandos had referenced Gadsby alongside Chappelle as an example of increased diversity on the streaming service in a company-wide email sent amid mounting backlash against The Closer – including the threat of walkouts at the company.

“We are working hard to ensure marginalised communities aren’t defined by a single story,” Sarandos’s email read. “So we have Sex Education, Orange Is The New Black, Control Z, Hannah Gadsby and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself.”

Chappelle’s special has drawn sustained criticism from the LGBTQ+ community for jokes directed towards the “thin skin” of trans people and in defence of author JK Rowling, who has previously been accused of transphobia.

In an earlier memo to managers, Sarandos defended Netflix for working hard to support the “creative freedom” of its talent, citing stand-up comedy as providing a “very different standard of speech” than would be internally allowed.

“Distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries,” the memo read. “Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.

“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. His last special ‘Sticks & Stones’ also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date.”

Gadsby’s comedy specials Nanette (2017) and Douglas (2020) were both released through Netflix.

Netflix has fired an employee organiser for allegedly leaking internal documents amid the furore over Chappelle’s special. It also suspended – and then reversed the suspension of – a trans worker for tweeting criticism of Chappelle’s special.

Jaclyn Moore, an executive producer of Netflix’s show Dear White People, announced that she will no longer be working with Netflix after Chappelle’s special, arguing that the company continues “to put out and profit from blatantly and dangerously transphobic content”.


Caitlin Cassidy

The GuardianTramp

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