Netflix seemingly pivots away from liberal agenda, but bottom line remains streaming giant’s chief focus
Netflix has made recent changes that look to some like an effort to distance itself from a liberal agenda, but observers feel the streaming juggernaut is looking out for its bottom line and didn’t suddenly pivot away from woke ideology.
“The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” billionaire Elon Musk tweeted in April, responding to news of Netflix’s shares cratering by 20% after the company reported it lost subscribers last quarter for the first time in over a decade.
Since Musk’s scathing message, Netflix told its employees to leave the company if they’re offended by the content the company is producing and even scrapped a batch of left-wing programming. The directive for employees to stop being so sensitive was found in a memo, first reported by Variety, titled “Netflix Culture – Seeking Excellence.”
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“As employees we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity of stories, even if we find some titles counter to our own personal values,” the memo stated. “Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful… if you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”
Some of the streaming service’s employees staged a walkout after Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos continued to air Dave Chappelle’s comedy special “The r” last year, despite its jabs at transgendered people that infuriated some progressives. In the memo, Netflix acknowledged some programming could bother certain viewers, but the streaming service is choosing not to silence artists.
The culture memo was in the works for months and was not a reaction to Musk, an insider told Fox News Digital. The Netflix insider feels it was intended to set expectations for future employees who should support artistic expression and a variety of options on the streaming service.
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On Wednesday, Netflix axed the “Antiracist Baby” series for preschoolers, based off a book by critical race theory advocate Ibram X. Kendi. A documentary from Kendi titled “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” was also scrapped.
While some projects based on work from the critical race theory advocate have been halted, Netflix will still proceed with Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning,” which is currently in production and shows the company hasn’t totally distanced itself from the polarizing author.
Netflix also pulled the animated adaptations of “Wings of Fire,” from executive producer Ava DuVernay, who co-created Colin Kaepernick’s Netflix series. Media Research Center executive editor Tim Graham feels the company didn’t need another public relations headache at the moment.
“Picking up projects like these to please the Black Lives Matter crowd runs the risk of offending some viewers after all the controversy over teaching critical race theory in schools. So they may have decided to avoid taking a hit on that,” Graham told Fox News Digital.
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“It’s quite possible the shows would have ended up just as stilted and propagandistic as Kendi’s books, especially the ‘Antiracist Baby’ book,’” Graham added. “This is probably a business decision more than a political decision. They would hesitate to pick up a kiddie show titled ‘All Lives Matter’ for fear that this would also alienate half the audience.”
Before the recent decisions to ditch some far-left content and tell staffers to toughen up, Netflix had developed a reputation for pushing a liberal agenda. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama signed a multiyear agreement to produce new films and shows with Netflix in 2018. In 2019, film critic Armond White declared, Netflix to be a “propaganda machine” in a scathing New York Post column condemning a promotional campaign for Obama’s first documentary, “American Factory.”
The service has produced a documentary series on NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, who famously claimed in June 2020 at the height of Black Lives Matter protests throughout America that a noose had been found hanging from his garage at Talladega Superspeedway. FBI agents eventually declared it was actually a garage door pull that had been there for a year. Netflix also produced the 2021 climate change satire “Don’t Look Up,” and “Umbrella Academy,” which is expected to focus on a character coming out as transgender in its upcoming season.
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Netflix recently aired a documentary in which Kaepernick compared the NFL Draft process to slavery, and it has also begun promoting a series, “He’s Expecting,” about a man who becomes pregnant.
In addition, Netflix is the streaming service behind “Cuties,” a controversial 2020 French film that tells the coming-of-age story of an 11-year-old girl as she discovers her maturing self, all while looking for acceptance in her religious family and group of young dancers she hopes to befriend. The movie sparked backlash and even led to the hashtag #CancelNetflix trending on social media.
Grabien Media founder Tom Elliott believes Netflix is “trying to triage its cratering company,” by “dropping the most extreme anti-American programming it had under production,” but there is no guarantee American consumers will go along with it.
“The expression “go woke, go broke” has already become a cliché because there are now countless examples of companies going too woke,” Elliott told Fox News Digital.
“Today politics make up way too much of Americans’ everyday lives; the last thing anyone needs is their deodorant company offering unsolicited sermons on their new ‘trans inclusive’ approach to body odor,” Elliott continued. “The proof is in the numbers. A poll this week found that almost 90 percent of Americans said they would boycott a company if it starts pushing a political agenda they oppose.”
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Elliott pointed to Disney, which has come under fire for its liberal politics after publicly campaigning against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ parental rights bill in the Sunshine State that progressives claim is anti-LGBTQ.
Barack Obama and Michelle Obama signed multiyear agreement to produce new films and shows with Netflix in 2018.
Disney’s politics have hurt its stock and harmed its reputation among conservatives, Eliott argued, and he feels other companies should take notice.
Conservative radio host and political satirist Tim Young believes Netflix has taken notice, but he’s skeptical about the streaming giant’s motives.
“As it turns out, Netflix has discovered that a majority of the country doesn’t want to be preached at with woke talking points for entertainment. But don’t be fooled, the company isn’t paying attention to critics of their wokeness, they’re paying attention to their bottom line,” Young told Fox News Digital.
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“As a digital media company, they know exactly who is watching what and when – and they’ve identified that viewers aren’t tuning in – nor have they ever tuned in to liberal nonsense. I’d be willing to bet that they are going to shift to cash in on conservatives, who represent at least half of the country and attempt to regain them as customers,” Young continued. “Maybe they’ll give me a sweet deal on a comedy special now.”
Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fox Business’ Janelle Ash, Andrew Mark Miller and Fox News’ Hanna Panreck contributed to this report.