The removal of several TV shows from catch-up and streaming platforms has brought the debate about depictions of race on screen to the fore.
In the US, HBO Max has pulled Gone With The Wind over “racist depictions” that were “wrong then and are wrong today” – but says the 1939 film will eventually return with a discussion of its historical context.
However, many TV shows are being removed completely, with some arguing this is tokenistic and does little to actually combat systemic racism.
Here are the shows that have been pulled or had certain episodes removed by some broadcasters and streaming services, and the characters that have been called into question as Black Lives Matter demonstrations continue.
Starring David Walliams and Matt Lucas, Little Britain has long been criticised for its portrayal of black and Asian characters by the white comedians, as well as gay characters and those with disabilities.
They include an obese Caribbean woman called Desiree, for which Walliams wore blackface, and a mail-order bride named Ting Tong. More famous characters included Daffyd, “the only gay in the village”, and Lou and Andy, the latter of whom was in a wheelchair.
The show has now been removed from Netflix, NOW TV, Britbox and BBC iPlayer.
A BBC spokesperson said it had made the decision to remove the show as “times have changed” since the comedy first aired in 2003.
Walliams and Lucas’s other series, Come Fly With Me, which also featured blackface, has also been removed.
The stars have both said previously that they would make Little Britain differently today.
The Mighty Boosh
Surreal comedy series The Mighty Boosh, starring Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, ran for three series between 2004 and 2007.
The character that has come into question is the Spirit of Jazz, the ghost of fictional jazz musician Howlin’ Jimmy Jefferson, and was played by Fielding in blackface.
Netflix has removed the show and Sky has also pulled it from its catch-up service.
However, the BBC has kept the show on iPlayer.
The League Of Gentlemen
The League of Gentlemen, which aired on the BBC between 1999 and 2002, starred Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, and Reece Shearsmith as a series of bizarre characters in the fictional northern town of Royston Vasey.
One character played by Shearsmith, Papa Lazarou, wore blackface.
In an interview with The Independent earlier this year, Shearsmith said “it was not me doing a black man. It was always this clown-like make-up and we just came up with what we thought was the scariest idea to have in a sort of Child Catcher-like way.”
He said he did not think the programme had had complaints made at the time.
Netflix, NOW TV and Sky have all removed the series, although the BBC has kept the show on iPlayer.
Airing between 2002 and 2004, with a number of spin-offs, Bo Selecta saw comedian Leigh Francis wearing latex face masks to impersonate celebrities including Elton John and the Osbournes.
His most famous characters included Michael Jackson and Craig David, and the star issued an apology for these depictions earlier this month.
Referring to his time on the Channel 4 series, Francis said: “I portrayed many black people. Back then I didn’t think anything about it, people didn’t say anything, I’m not going to blame other people.
“I’ve been talking to some people and I didn’t realise how offensive it was back then. And I just wanna apologise and, you know, say sorry for any upset I caused.”
The show has been removed from Channel 4’s catch-up and streaming service, All 4, with a spokesperson for the channel saying: “We support Leigh in his decision to reflect on Bo Selecta in light of recent events and we’ve agreed with him to remove the show from the All 4 archive.”
However, football star John Barnes, who experienced racism throughout his career, is among those who have defended Bo Selecta, saying the impersonations may have been offensive to individuals, but were not racist.
Saturday Night Takeaway
In their Saturday night variety show, which launched in 2002, TV presenting duo Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly would often disguise themselves for “undercover” sketches in which they pranked famous faces.
They wore blackface in 2003, dressing up as two fictional Jamaican women, Patty and Bernice, to prank Emmerdale cast members.
In 2004, they dressed up as two Japanese girls, Suki and Keiko, using make-up and exaggerated accents.
The episodes have disappeared from ITV’s online catch-up service, with Ant and Dec, both 44, confirming that they had “already taken steps to ensure the footage was taken down”.
In a statement on Twitter, the pair wrote: “During past episodes of Saturday Night Takeaway we impersonated people of colour in the undercover segment of the show.
“We realise that this was wrong and want to say that we are sincerely sorry to everyone that we offended.
“We purposely stopped doing this several years ago and certainly would not make these sketches today.”
Long-running US reality TV show Cops launched in 1989, allowing viewers to rise along with police officers on patrol in various cities across the US.
With the reggae song Bad Boys as its theme tune, it has come under fire in the past for glorifying police aggression.
As the issue of systemic police racism in the US was brought into the spotlight following the death of George Floyd, the Paramount Network removed the show temporarily from air at the end of May.
The move has since been made permanent, with no plans for the show to come back.
A spokesperson for Paramount said: “Cops is not on the Paramount Network and we don’t have any current or future plans for it to return.”
Angry Boys, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes and Jonah From Tonga
Australian comedian Chris Lilley has seen four of his shows pulled by Netflix over their use of blackface.
Angry Boys features blackface character S.mouse, while Summer Heights High and Jonah From Tonga feature the character of Jonah Takalua, for which Lilley wore brown make-up.
In We Can Be Heroes, Lilley plays Chinese physics student Ricky Wong.
Race and Revolution: Is Change Going to Come?
Sky News will broadcast a global debate show on Tuesday night at 8pm – looking at the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter protests, and examining institutional racism and how we fix it.
If you would like to be part of our virtual audience, and have a chance of putting a question to our panel, please send your name, location and question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source : Sky News