A CEO with a Backbone?!
I grew up in a time when comedy pushed the boundaries. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and others make fun of people in things that they thought work wrong. Movies like Blazing Saddles and Airplane allowed us to laugh at ourselves and each other. To many of us it broke down some of the barriers that might have kept us apart because we were different. Turns out we're more alike than we thought while still having differences, but it made us human and approachable.
Netflix aired the comedy program featuring Dave Chappelle's standup. I have yet to see the program but know several people who have watched it. To a person they have said it is hilarious and spot on. It doesn't denigrate any one group but points out some things that are actually true in a funny way. Of course, in today's society some of those groups are offended.
Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos knew that some of the content of the show would be deemed offensive by some groups. He sent out a memo prior to the airing of the special advising managers how to deal with this situation. Several transgender employees of Netflix were offended and upset. They claim that such humor can marginalize them as human beings. They also believe that it can promote heat and endanger their lives.
Sarandos is not backing down. He spoke to some of the individuals who had complaints but did not change his position on airing Chappelle's program. Sarandos said that there is not sufficient evidence to support the claim that entertainment leads to real world harm. He pointed to the airing of a program entitled "365 Days" last year. He said at the time many people thought this would increase violence against women but there is no indication or evidence that it did.
The Netflix CEO went further in saying that he believes the viewers are responsible enough and mature enough to watch violent or offensive content and not allow it to spur them to take action. "The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the past thirty years, especially with first-party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others," Sarandos said.
He is correct. I have said several times on different platforms that so many people with the platforms to express opinions or shape public opinion do not believe that most of us are capable of making our own decisions, especially what they might deem to be the right decision. That we are not capable of seeing what is wrong and avoiding that behavior or taking action to protect those who might be harmed by such behavior. History, as Sarandos points out, proves otherwise. Good for him in standing up for creative freedom, free speech, and his viewers.