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How Netflix handled the firing of Danny Masterson from The Ranch

Netflix has fired Danny Masterson from The Ranch, a Netflix original show.

Masterson’s termination from The Ranch was awaited by many who have been following the rape accusations made against the actor. Some have wondered why it took Netflix so long to take action against Masterson. Kevin Spacey, the former lead actor on the Netflix original show House of Cards, was also accused of sexual misconduct similarly to Masterson. Yet, one significant difference between the two cases was how Netflix handled both terminations.

In regards to Kevin Spacey, his termination was almost immediate as soon as actor Anthony Rapp came forward publicly with his experience with Spacey, when he was a teenager. Yet, the case against Masterson has been public knowledge for some time, and yet Netflix was for sometime unwilling to terminate Masterson. Netflix released a statement in the past acknowledging they were aware of Masterson’s situation, but were awaiting to see the case develop. This decision, on part of Netflix always seemed troubling because it went against the liberal brand Netflix has worked carefully to cultivate through their programming and original productions.

Netflix celebrates the LGBTQ community by producing shows such as Sense8. Netflix celebrates minority actors in lead roles with shows such as Luke Cage and Dear White People. Netflix celebrates and is willing to explore issues important to teenagers with shows like 13 Reasons Why. Netflix encourages free speech and a celebration of civil liberties and strong women, by having Chelsea Handler as their first talk show host. So, how on earth, could Netflix have taken so long to terminate Masterson?

Part of the answer lies in the statement Danny Masterson released following his termination:

"I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix's decision to write my character off of The Ranch. From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused. I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all. In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to the cast and crew that I've worked so closely with over the past three seasons. I wish them nothing but success. I am also so thankful to the fans that have supported me and continue to do so."

Masterson was right when he mentioned that his situation is being directly affected by the current climate. Masterson’s case is being judged not just by the court of law, but more importantly by the court of public opinion. The continuous and disgusting number of sexual predators being unveiled this year alone has left a red-hot angry lump in the throat of society, and people want justice. Yet, justice has been elusive to many victims because of statute of limitations laws making legal justice unobtainable. That is why movements in the media such as “#MeToo” have become so powerful, because its use not only allows victims to show the world what kind of person their abusers are really like behind the scenes, but also by doing they remove their abuser's power both in society and professionally.

Netflix may have been hesitant to terminate Danny Masterson, but his termination was inevitable because our current climate no longer is willing to support and place individuals in desirous positions of power if there is any doubt they may be a sexual predator. The reality is Danny Masterson may be innocent (the evidence against him is unknown to the public as of now)-but as things stand there are too many lingering suspicions that sealed his fate at Netflix. Keep in mind, that the other men who have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple individuals in the media, have in every case been unable to prove they did not act inappropriately, or more to the point, the accusations are so staggering that even without concrete technical evidence, the truth is obvious. This year has forced our society to examine itself, and recognize that victims in the past have been prone to being unbelieved and shamed. Fortunately, it seems our society is working as a whole to try to fix the culture that made these men feel they could be blatant sexual predators and get away with it because of their professional status.

Many would have liked Netflix to have acted swiftly with regards to Masterson’s termination but if they had, one possible outcome could have been Netflix’s cancellation of the show. This may be an acceptable solution to some, but these shows employ more than just the person accused, so the termination of an actor in a lead role for these reasons is very tricky if at all possible. When Netflix took their time to announce what they would do with House of Cards for example some called for the shows cancellation. Netflix eventually announced the show would continue into it’s last season with actress Robin Wright taking over as lead actress, and this turn of events was seen as a great solution, but it is one that may never have been had Netflix not taken their time to exam all their options.

There is no doubt that one of the long enduring effects of this year’s sex scandals is that companies are retooling themselves to best handle these sexual harassment situations. Hopefully companies take into account that the “handling of scandals” is just as important as placing emphasis on the consistent education and enforcement of equal and professional treatment of both sexes at work. Netflix may have been thrown a curveball with the Danny Masterson situation, but it will be interesting to note if the issue repeats itself, how they will handle it then. And, should Danny Masterson find himself being vindicated of the accusations made against him, it will be interesting to see how a company like Netflix handles that situation. Will Netflix owe anything to Masterson if he is proven innocent? All of these new protocols, company rules, social norms, and forms of social justice are being written as we speak, because 2017 may have been the year when predators were revealed, but this coming year both the law and our society will tackle the job of dealing with the messy fallout.

Image: Netflix