At the request of executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, NBCUniversal (NBCU) has removed four episodes of its much-loved sitcom 30 Rock from all streaming platforms as a result of their inclusion of characters in blackface.
The decision to remove the episodes was made in the wake of anti-racism protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes last month.
Fey, 50, apologized for any “pain (the network or producers may) have caused,” suggesting that it was best that the episodes simply be “taken out of circulation,” as seen in a memo obtained by Variety on Monday, June 22.
“As we strive to do the work and do better in regards to race in America, we believe that these episodes featuring actors in race-changing makeup are best taken out of circulation,” Fey said in her statement.
The former SNL star continued: “I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused.
“Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness. I thank NBCUniversal for honouring this request,” she concluded.
The episodes in question originally aired between 2008 and 2012.
In the first, Believe in the Stars (Season 3, Episode 3), main characters Jenna Maroney (portrayed by Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) attempt to swap their racial identities — with Krakowski, 51, appearing in blackface.
Two years later, in the span of only six episodes, 30 Rock had two separate instances of blackface: in The Live Show (Season 5, Episode 4) and Christmas Attack Zone (Season 5, Episode 10). The latter, once again, sees Krakowski wearing blackface after she dresses up as Lynn Swann, the American football player and politician.
30 Rock‘s final usage of blackface was seen in 2012’s Live From Studio 6H (Season 6, Episode 19), in which Mad Men star Jon Hamm can be seen wearing black face paint.
All four episodes will be pulled from NBCU and all other streaming platforms that hold the rights to broadcast 30 Rock later this week, according to Variety.
The episodes have already been removed from Amazon and Hulu, and NBCU will no longer air reruns of them on its network. On top of that, they will no longer be available to purchase on digital stores like iTunes or Google Play.
Fey and Carlock’s push for NBCUniversal to act upon removing the racially insensitive 30 Rock episodes follows a wave of similar adjustments in the film and television industry over the last few weeks, including the cancellation of Cops and Live PD.
The two smash-hit police/crime series ceased production and were dropped by their respective networks immediately earlier this month in response to the anti-police brutality protests following Floyd’s killing.
The episode in question, The Germans, originally aired in 1975 and included a number of racist remarks from recurring character Major Gowen, who used multiple slurs to describe both the West Indies and India cricket teams.
On top of that, Gone With the Wind, the 1939 film long criticized for romanticizing slavery and the Civil War-era American South, will be rereleased on HBO Max with a new introduction that includes Black scholar and television host Jacqueline Stewart in order to add historical context for the viewer.
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