Several films and shows such as 30 Rock, The Golden Girls, The Office and Scrubs have been pulled back or removed from streaming platforms due to its racist content such as featuring blackface.
While it may seem to be the right move, simply barring the show from being shown can be detrimental in the long run because it doesn’t help educate the larger public.
In an interview with Radio Times, actor Idris Elba said that these controversial episodes should not have been erased but updated with a warning or rating to ensure viewers know the racist content the programs contain.
“I’m very much a believer in freedom of speech,” Elba said.
“But the thing about freedom of speech is that it’s not suitable for everybody. That’s why we have a rating system. We tell you that this particular content is rated U, PG, 15, 18. To mock the truth, you have to know the truth. But to censor racist themes within a show, to pull it — wait a second, I think viewers should know that people made shows like this.”
“Out of respect for the time and the movement, commissioners and archive-holders pulling things they think are exceptionally tone-deaf at this time — fair enough and good for you.”
“But I think, moving forward, people should know that freedom of speech is accepted, but the audience should know what they’re getting into. I don’t believe in censorship. I believe that we should be allowed to say what we want to say. Because, after all, we’re story-makers.”
A film which had recently placed a warning label to inform viewers was Gone with the Wind. HBO Max reuploaded the film with both a disclaimer to inform viewers about the film’s problematic content. It also came with a supplemental video of historians and scholars providing a larger discussion and historical context of the film.
The show Mad Men also provided a disclaimer for its blackface episode which reads,
“This episode contains disturbing images related to race in America. One of the characters is shown in blackface as part of an episode that shows how commonplace racism was in America in 1963.”
“In its reliance on historical authenticity, the series producers are committed to exposing the injustices and inequities within our society that continue to this day so we can examine even the most painful parts of our history in order to reflect on who we are today and who we want to become. We are therefore presenting the original episode in its entirety.”