Streaming services are pulling four episodes of 30 Rock that featured characters in blackface. The move was made at the behest of executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
According to Vulture:
“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 wrote in a letter to the platforms that streamed or sold 30 Rock. “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 honoring this request.”
Two of the episodes in question involved Jane Krakowski’s Jenna in blackface, one of which was for a plot where Jenna and Tracy Morgan’s character, Tracy Jordan, swapped identities in an attempt to learn whether black men or white women face more challenges in society. Another one featured Jon Hamm in blackface, and the last one was from the East Coast version of “The Live Show.” (It’s not totally clear why or if the West Coast version will remain available.)
Amazon and Hulu have already removed some of the episodes, and all of them will be gone by the end of the week. They’ll no longer air as reruns either, and viewers won’t be able to buy them on iTunes or Google Play.
As yet unknown is whether Fey’s decision to pull the episodes is born of sudden racial awareness, or as some have suggested, simply out of “pre-emptive legacy maintenance.”