The Office has become the latest NBC sitcom to retroactively remove an instance of blackface from its series on streaming platforms and where it is available for purchase. A new version of 2012’s Episode 909, titled “Dwight’s Christmas” has been replaced with an edited version removing the problematic scene. Other NBC sitcoms, like Community, Scrubs, and 30 Rock, have opted instead to pull similar episodes.
The Office was a mockumentary-style adaptation of the British series sharing the same name, which was adapted for American audiences by Greg Daniels. In a statement issued to news site TheWrap, Daniels writes: “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 behavior 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.”
The new cut will also replace the original version slated for syndication airings on Comedy Central and other Viacom-owned channels.
This move is part of a larger rising tide happening across television more broadly to enact greater sensitivity–also this week. For example, five South Park episodes have been removed from the animated series’ 23 seasons due to their controversial depiction of Prophet Muhammad. Also in animation, and more centered on casting choices, both Jenny Slate has left the Netflix series Big Mouth and Kristen Bell has left the Apple+ Central Park for the same reason: So Black actors can step in and take over their roles. On the writing front, actor Terry Crews stated in an interview that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s forthcoming eighth season “had four episodes ready to go and [showrunner Dan Goor] threw them in the trash. We have to start over.”
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