We have seen a lot of backlash coming in the last few weeks. First it was directed at Jimmy Fallon for his Chris Rock impression that he did in blackface in SNL 20 years ago. Following that was the removal/cancellation of COPS from Fox after 31 years and even Gone with the Wind got pulled off of HBO Max temporarily.
And now, Netflix has followed suit by removing some of their own acquired catalog as a result of recent events. First up is Little Britain, which first came out in 2003 on BBC in Britain. Several of the characters on this popular comedy series utilized blackface, as did a character on the follow-up from creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams, Come Fly with Me. The series was also removed from BBC. They wound up making a statement on the removal.
“There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review. Times have changed since Little Britain first aired, so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”
This is controversy that had been brewing for a while. There have been other controversial aspects involving transgenders, disabled people, and Thai brides, but the sketch that found Walliams playing a black character named Desiree DeVere. Lucas spoke of this controversy to Big Issue magazine in 2017.
“If I could go back and do Little Britain again, … I wouldn’t play black characters,” he said. “Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now.”
Also this week, Netflix removed multiple aeries from Australian comedian Chris Lilley on their Australian/New Zealand platforms. Lilley has done bits in four different shows that dealt with blackface as well as portraying other races as stereotypes.
The four shows removed include Angry Boys, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, and Jonah From Tonga. However two other series, Ja’mie: Private School Girl and Lunatics, will remain on the service. And unlike Little Britain, the BBC has no plans to remove these shows.
Netflix has not shared any statement about the removal of the comedies as of yet. We will update this once/if they do.