The Office is the latest television comedy to reckon with how it handled, or mishandled, matters of race and racism in response to the Black Lives Matter protests of the past month.
In a press statement to Variety, Greg Daniels, the man behind the hit British program’s American adaptation, announced that they have edited the 2012 episode “Dwight Christmas” on streaming platforms and in future reruns so that it no longer contains a scene in which one of the characters is seen wearing blackface.
“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,” wrote Daniels. “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 [we] caused.”
The move comes just a few days after Tina Fey announced her decision to pull four episodes of 30 Rock from streaming, syndication, and digital purchase that feature characters in blackface. Netflix and Hulu have also pulled an episode of Community in which one of the actors wears blackface as part of an ill-conceived sight gag.
Animated comedies are currently undergoing a similar reckoning with the casting of Black characters. In recent weeks, The Simpsons has announced that it will recast all of its non-white characters so that they are voiced by performers of color. Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell have similarly stepped down from voicing their non-white characters on Big Mouth and Central Park, respectively, as has Family Guy’s Mike Henry, who has voiced the character of Cleveland Brown since 1999.