May 13, 2022

MUCH MORE LIKE THIS, PLEASE: Netflix Fires Major Warning Shot At Its Woke Employees With New ‘Culture Memo.’

Variety reports that the change in Netflix’s company culture appears to be in large part due to the backlash the streaming service faced from woke employees last year over its Dave Chappelle special, which the employees claimed was transphobic.

The updated Netflix Culture memo includes a new section called “Artistic Expression” that states that it will not “censor specific artists or voices” even if employees consider the content “harmful.”

“If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you,” the memo states, later adding that employees may be required to work on projects that they “perceive to be harmful” and that if they have a hard time accepting their work assignment, they might want to consider working somewhere else.

“Entertaining the world is an amazing opportunity and also a challenge because viewers have very different tastes and points of view. So we offer a wide variety of TV shows and movies, some of which can be provocative,” the new section reads, later adding, “we support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with” and that “we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices.”

Netflix reportedly fired the leader of a trans organization within the company last October who allegedly organized a walkout to protest the company backing Chappelle over his special “The Closer.”

The Verge reported:

The employee was terminated on suspicion of leaking metrics to the press related to the Dave Chappelle special. Those metrics — about how much Netflix paid for The Closer and how many people it reached — subsequently ended up in a report on Bloomberg. While the employee had shared the metrics internally, they spoke out against the leaks to colleagues, worried they might hurt the walkout movement.

The leaking of internal data is highly unusual at Netflix. While the company prides itself on transparency, employees are told that the culture can only thrive when Netflix data remains internal.

Speaking of Netflix, Sonny Bunch writes: Traipsing Through the Vaster Wasteland. On Netflix, HBO Max, and thirst in the desert.

When you put a bunch of people in charge of making shows who don’t know how to make shows, you run into trouble. This is at least part of the reason why Netflix itself is in crisis, having lost three-quarters of its market cap and leaving creators unsure of its ability to do the only thing it was good for, namely shoveling money into the pockets of filmmakers in exchange for them churning out stuff they couldn’t get made elsewhere. Netflix’s biggest draw—its endless maw of “content”—is now its biggest liability. Sure, the food sucked, but the portions were sizable. Because no one ever said no.

Consider Anatomy of a Scandal, which I, unfortunately, spent last week watching. It’s the sort of program into which Netflix has poured untold millions, a mere portion of the $17 billion the service spent on programming in 2021 and a similar sum spent the year before. The six-episode miniseries was co-created by David E. Kelley of L.A. Law and Ally McBeal fame. It has stars in Sienna Miller (American Sniper, Layer Cake) and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) whom the algorithm has undoubtedly pinpointed as audience favorites. It is based on a relatively popular book of the same name. It has “social relevance” in the sense that it is about #MeToo.

And it is utterly implausible and silly, each episode ending on a cliffhanger that’s so stupid the director of the episodes had to radically upend the style of the show we’d been watching—veering from vaguely realistic to surreal—in order to really hit home just how shocking it all is. As my wife and I joked when the first episode closed with James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) literally being blown off his feet by an invisible force after he was told that what had heretofore been a mere infidelity scandal was mutating into a rape charge, it was like something out of The Matrix.

But The Matrix requires far fewer cognitive leaps, far less suspension of disbelief. Anatomy of a Scandal requires us to believe that a political official would not only be charged with rape as the result of a workplace dalliance but that the case against him would be randomly assigned to be prosecuted by a woman he assaulted decades prior who has since changed her name and also that neither the man charged nor his wife (Miller) would recognize this barrister despite having gone to college with her years before. And this is, believe it or not, the smallest leap of faith we’re asked to take.

* * * * * * * *

Obviously no network falls on the failures of a single show. But Anatomy of a Scandal isn’t a single failure and, as Richard Rushfield noted in the Ankler, even the Hollywood trades that have benefited from Netflix’s advertising spending are starting to stick the shivs in. A headline like “Mike Myers’ ‘The Pentaverate’ Is Just the Latest Example of Netflix’s Blank-Check Bloat: TV Review” in Variety would’ve been unthinkable just a few months ago. Now the narrative has shifted. Netflix makes a lot of shit, emphasis on both the lot and the shit, and people are finally starting to call them out on it.

All of a sudden, Netflix has turned from the awards-season darling and the great hope of the post-theatrical future to just another spigot pouring out dumb money into Hollywood. “Agents tell me that while of course their clients will take Netflix’s money, who wouldn’t, that the effect on their clients’ careers from Netflix projects is nil,” Rushfield writes. “‘There is no bump,’ one agent friend told me. Apple and then HBO have replaced Netflix as the place to take your project if you want the best chance of it being seen and noticed.”

Which, along with Netflix’ stock closing down a whopping 35 percent last month, helps to explain the above memo from its management to its crybully employees.

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