Blackface sketch

Netflix has removed an episode of the 2015 comedy series With Bob and David, the streaming service’s quasi-revival of the popular 1990s HBO sketch series Mr. Show with Bob and David, because one of the sketches depicts a character wearing blackface. Creators Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have commented on the situation, and you can watch the sketch in question below.

There are some folks who say that using blackface in any capacity is wrong, and it should never be done under any circumstances. Others suggest that it’s acceptable in certain situations: such as if it’s used in a comedic setting to underscore a larger point about systemic injustice. I’ll just say that I can understand where both sides are coming from, but making a final judgment on this topic is far above my pay grade, so I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

With Bob and David Blackface Sketch

One thing’s for sure, though: the creators of this show weren’t thrilled that Netflix decided to remove the episode in question. Variety pointed us to their reactions on Twitter:

This decision comes in the midst of ongoing global protests in support of Black Lives Matter, and just a few days after Netflix removed four shows from its Australia and New Zealand services from comedian Chris Lilley, which had previously spurred questions about racial depictions. The British comedy The League of Gentlemen has also been removed for depicting characters in blackface.

I’d been wondering exactly where Netflix would draw the line on this volatile and sensitive issue, and from the looks of it, they’re going to be taking down anything with blackface in it at all. That will be a win for those who think this is always, under any circumstance, unacceptable. However, this would be not-so-great if Netflix decides to remove, say, the first episode of Dear White People, in which white characters throwing a blackface party – and the reaction black characters have to that party – is the inciting incident that kicks off the whole series.

Here’s a general rule for everyone: maybe just don’t wear blackface? But as the Dear White People and With Bob and David examples show, sometimes striking it from a streaming service can actually suppress the points those shows were trying to make about race in the first place. Again, this is complicated stuff and it’s certainly not my place to try to establish any kind of the final word on this matter. But I’m very curious about the actual conversations taking place inside Netflix about this topic.

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