We’re living through a potentially historic moment, when a lot of issues that have never led to much actual change appear like they may actually change. The Black Lives Matter protests that have taken over the country, and elsewhere around the globe, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd have already inspired numerous advances, from the (temporary) removal of Gone with the Wind from HBO Max to management shifts at places like Bon Appetit. And now it looks like depictions of blackface in TV and movie are next on the docket.
This comes from Vulture, who learned that at four episodes from 30 Rock have been pulled from streaming services and reruns. Why? Because they feature blackface. Four episodes seems like a lot for a beloved show known for its progressive laurels.
Two of the pulled episodes involve Jane Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney, one from Season Three, in which she swaps identities with Tracy Morgan’s Tracy Jordan, and the other in Season Five, when she attends a party dressed up as Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann. The other two are the East Coast version of Season 5’s live episode (the West Coast one did not feature the offending bit) and Season 6’s live episode, with Jon Hamm in crude blackface.
The decision was made by 30 Rock creators Tina Fey (who, of course, also starred) and Robert Carlock. “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 platforms that stream her show. “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.”
30 Rock currently streams on Hulu and Amazon Prime and is also available for rent or purchase on iTunes and Google Play, and those streamers will now no longer carry those episodes. Meanwhile, Amazon is still weighing whether to edit or pull episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard, which prominently feature the Confederate flag.