Netflix drew swift backlash from some progressive critics this week after news broke that the streaming service had pulled the plug on several woke animated projects.
What are the details?
Among the projects scrapped were Ava DuVernay’s “Antiracist Baby” with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi — an animated adaptation of the critical race theory author’s book — and the hybrid documentary, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” Variety reported on Tuesday, citing sources at Netflix.
Another project by DuVernay, called “Wings of Fire,” was also canceled. DuVernay is a film producer, well known for her work on “Selma,” “13th,” and “A Wrinkle in Time.” She also co-created a Netflix series about Colin Kaepernick’s life and experiences with racism, in which the former professional quarterback equated being an NFL player to slavery.
Kendi is an American author and critical race theory scholar who rose to national fame in recent years for his promulgation of anti-racist ideology derived from his book, “How to be an Antiracist.”
Netflix has been forced to make several staff and budget cuts in recent days following a dismal start to the year that saw a net decline of 200,000 subscribers — its first subscriber decline in more than a decade. Those cuts included layoffs of an estimated 150 staffers, in addition to 70 more part-time staffers from its animation studio.
However, company sources reportedly told Variety that its decision to scrap the animated projects was made for “creative” rather than cost-related reasons, “meaning they would have taken place regardless of the company’s slower revenue growth,” the outlet said.
That reasoning made matters worse for the streaming service in the eyes of progressive critics. In a scathing rebuke of the recent decisions, BIPOC news blog the Root accused the streaming service of disproportionately targeting black and other minority projects and staffers for cancellation.
“At this point, there probably isn’t any explanation that can be given when it comes to Black, Brown, Indigenous, AAPI and LGBTQ+ folks losing their livelihoods — especially when most of them were recruited for their expertise, experience and talents in the first place,” the article stated.
The blog also claimed that Netflix’s earlier staff layoffs predominantly affected minority workers.
“Most of the immensely talented folks who had been let go were BIPOC and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community who worked under several of the streamer’s popular arms dedicated to highlighting and promoting diverse content,” it said.
The news comes as Netflix only recently issued a blunt statement to woke employees who wish to silence artists who produce content they find offensive.
In a stern update to its corporate culture memo last week, the company vowed not to cancel artists just because employees don’t prefer their content.
“Not everyone will like — or agree with — everything on our service,” the update states. “While every title is different, we approach them based on the same set of principles: we support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with; we program for a diversity of audiences and tastes; and we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices.”
It then adds: “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”