In an interview published Sunday, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos reaffirmed his support for artistic freedom, defending comedians Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais against those who wish to muzzle their opposing viewpoints. He recently told the New York Times that comedians had a mission to push the bounds of societal acceptance.
Mr. Sarandos said that, while he was taken by surprise at the kerfuffle, he did not agonize over supporting Mr. Chappelle. He said that the only way comedians can figure out where the line is, is by “crossing the line every once in a while. I think it’s very important to the American culture generally to have free expression.”
He continued: “We’re programming for a lot of diverse people who have different opinions and different tastes and different styles, and yet we’re not making everything for everybody. We want something for everybody but everything’s not going to be for everybody.”
He said he believes this deeply, so his decision about Mr. Chappelle “wasn’t hard in that way. And rarely do you get the opportunity to put your principles to the test,” he said. “It was an opportunity to take somebody, like in Dave’s case, who is, by all measure, the comedian of our generation, the most popular comedian on Netflix for sure. Nobody would say that what he does isn’t thoughtful or smart. You just don’t agree with him. ”
While his Times interview focused mostly on Dave Chappelle, it also touched on Ricky Gervais’ new special, Supernature, which premiered last week and attracted similar criticism for allegedly utilizing “transphobic language”.
In May, at the “Netflix Is a Joke Festival” at the Hollywood Bowl, Mr. Chappelle was attacked onstage by a guy who said he was “triggered” by the comedian’s remarks about the LGBTQ community. Netflix quickly published a new corporate culture document a few days later, which received 10,000 responses after six months of discussion among company workers. The memo told the staff that “if you’d find it difficult to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the right location for you”.
The Netflix CEO also reaffirmed that his remarks on Chappelle’s liberties, saying that they were universal and obviously extended to Gervais as well.