Netflix Courts Controversy

Netflix Courts Controversy

November 2, 2021

Netflix has exploded across the internet recently, and not for anything good. Drowning out its new and planned content is the controversy over Dave Chappelle's comedy special, The Closer. Despite the company's head apologizing for the offense, Netflix also has shown it has no plans to take down the content, revealing the vast impact that streaming services can have in controlling social public discourse.

Streamer's Spotlight: Streaming Services as Change Agents?

When Netflix released its Dave Chappelle comedy special, The Closer, it likely knew it was dipping its toes into a controversial pool. Chappelle's jokes have always been a bit edgy and often rubbed some people the wrong way. This remained true with his latest special, which featured jokes targeting the LGBTQ community. The backlash was swift, but Netflix's response is an interesting study on the role that streaming services can and will likely continue to play on public discourse and social change.

1. Netflix Has Long Courted Political and Social Controversy

Netflix has increasingly tried to fashion itself as the go-to source for content with a message on modern social issues. One need only look at series such as Dear White People, 13 Reasons Why, and Messiah, or the movie Cuties, to see that the company is more than willing to offend some people for the sake of holding that conversation.

That said, when the company does choose to release content with a political or social edge to it, that messaging tends to learn more favorably progressive. That makes sense. As one study showed, the average Netflix viewer tends to

. It's a common-sense business practice to feed your audience content they agree with.

2. Creating Controversy

The above is a large reason why Netflix's decision to release the Dave Chappelle comedy special has raised quite a large fuss, both inside of Netflix among its workers, and wider across its userbase. We won't offer any commentary on Chappelle's special here; that's something for you to decide independently. Observationally, however, when a company chooses to create or release content that has a strong social or political message, it's always either going to find approval or rejection from its core audience; there are no in-betweens in our rather politically-charged environment.

3. Controlling the Message

This issue reveals one thing: Netflix and other streaming services like it have a vast amount of power. We now live in a society that lives and breathes streaming content. Traditionally, TV content has tried to be as neutral as possible to appeal to a wider audience. Now, however, services are pushing further into social and political commentary, knowing that they can do so. As much as people make bold claims about canceling service providers that produce material they disagree with, those services seem to understand their market power.

Netflix appears to know this, which is why its Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has boldly refused to take down Chappelle's comedy special. At the end of the day, the company is likely seeing more sign-ups as the controversy pulls in people interested to see what that controversy is all about. Netflix will likely try to space out how frequently it angers its core audience with content that runs against that audience's social or political beliefs, but this likely won't be the last time.

This Week's Streaming Guide

1. New Western Starring Idris Elba Coming to Netflix

"When an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge." Watch 'The Harder They Fall" this Wednesday (Nov. 3) -

2. 'Head of the Class' Reboot Comes to HBO Max

The short-lived but well-received classroom sitcom returns in modern form this Thursday (Nov. 4) on HBO Max. -

3. 'Animaniacs' Season 2 Hits Hulu

The antics continue in the Animaniacs series reboot this Friday (Nov. 5). -

4. Netflix Series Based on League of Legends Premieres

'Arcane', a gritty series based within the League of Legends world, premieres on Netflix this Saturday (Nov. 6). -

News and Industry Developments

1. Deal with Discovery May Change HBO Max Name

Some in WarnerMedia never liked the name. The new deal may give them the opportunity to come up with something better. -

2. ICYMI: YouTube Has a 'New to You' Feed

You can now see what new content is out there that aligns with your watch history and search interests. -

3. What's Coming to Hulu in November?

Everything you can enjoy this month. -

4. Peacock Struggled Big in Q3 2021

Meanwhile, other streaming services have enjoyed growth. -

Join the conversation

or to participate.