The Office and Community are among the latest shows to re-evaluate their content and alter episodes over the use of blackface.
Since the murder of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 and the global protests that followed, the entertainment industry has begun to remove scenes and episodes due to problematic content.
In the case of The Office, a scene has been removed from season nine episode ‘Dwight Christmas’, which sees Dwight Schrute (played by Rainn Wilson) sharing the German folk tale of Belsnickel. Among the characters in the story is Zwarte Piet – or Black Peter – who is said to be “a slave boy often portrayed in colourful pantaloons and blackface”.
When Schrute’s co-workers express their negative feelings about Black Peter, he texts his friend Nate (Mark Proksch) who is seen walking up to the building dressed as the character. When he receives the text, he walks away again.
In a statement, Greg Daniels – who adapted the show for the US – said: “The Office is about a group of people trying to work together with mutual respect despite the inappropriate actions of their boss and assistant manager.
“The show employed satire to expose unacceptable behaviour and deliver a message of inclusion. Today we cut a shot of an actor wearing blackface that was used to criticize a specific racist European practice. Blackface is unacceptable and making the point so graphically is hurtful and wrong. I am sorry for the pain that caused.”
Meanwhile, Netflix has removed the Community season two episode ‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ from its platform. In it, Ben Chang (played by Ken Jeong) wears black makeup to dress up as a “dark elf”, which Yvette Nicole Brown’s character Shirley Bennett calls a “hate crime”.
The latest edits and removals come after episodes of 30 Rock, The Mighty Boosh, Little Britain and more have been taken off of streaming services due to use of blackface. An episode of Fawlty Towers was also removed over the use of racial slurs, but was later reinstated by UKTV with a warning.