The LGBTQ+ team tweeting for Netflix
Most tweet-threads a near-impossible needle.
Some related reading. —Kate
I don’t have any inside information about Most, the Twitter account for Netflix’s LGBTQ+ storytelling. Normally, it tweets in the playful voice of a human representation of a corporation (see: Subway from Community). I don’t know who, exactly, is responsible for crafting that persona, or how involved the higher-ups are in approving its messaging. But it's clear that after Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special, The Closer, prompted a backlash inside and out of the company for its transphobic humor, the Most team has landed in a near-impossible position.
When a company encounters controversy, its social team is usually on the frontline, absorbing the criticism. But in this case, it was specifically the team running Most—people in the exact community that had been harmed by the special in the first place—that bore the brunt of it. As the online voice of Netflix’s LGBTQ+ content, there was special pressure on Most to acknowledge people's disappointment in the company, and to distance themselves from its employers.
Meanwhile, that team was surely aware of how individual employees at the company had been punished after speaking out. On her personal Twitter, Terra Field, a trans software engineer at Netflix, condemned her employer for “promoting TERF ideology.” Field was then suspended from her position. Netflix claimed this was because Field attended an executive meeting that she was not supposed to. They reinstated her the following day, after an internal investigation—only to turn around and fire the Black trans employee who was organizing a walkout of trans employees, on the basis that the employee had leaked confidential streaming metrics to the press. (The walkout demands mainly focused on workplace culture, hiring more trans employees into leadership roles, and setting aside a fund for cultivating trans and nonbinary talent.)
Most could have gone quiet, or adopted a more formal tone. Instead, it maintained its playful, Z-lennial Twitter voice, complete with emojis and abbreviations, to address the situation head-on.
This seems to have rubbed some people the wrong way. Here's all I have to say on that: If collective action has to sound and look a certain way for you to take it seriously, then you misunderstand the definition of “collective” (and “solidarity,” for that matter).
Of course, activism that originates from an official Netflix account is also helping rehabilitate Netflix’s overall image. (Brand social teams can and have gone rogue, but I don't know whether or not that's the case here.) Still, I’ve wracked my brain for other ways Most's team could have effectively communicated its disappointment with Netflix to the 78,000 followers who most needed to hear it, and I haven't had any better ideas.
I saw some people saying Most should have gone harder and been more frank in its criticism, given the shield the brand account itself provides—the solidarity and anonymity that the individual employees who spoke out did not have. But it’s normal, I imagine, to stand in solidarity and still be scared. In a country where employment is tied to healthcare, I think it’s reasonable that employees on the Most team want to keep their jobs, especially given how many LGBTQ+ issues are healthcare issues. Surely, the ideal outcome is not more LGBTQ+ Netflix employees losing their jobs.
Ultimately, the most impactful activism is probably not happening on Twitter, but internally at Netflix, both in public demonstrations like the walkout and conversations and other kinds of organizing we're not privy to. Change will never be achieved by a single employee, or Twitter account, alone.