The removal of various pieces of entertainment containing blackface has become a topic of considerable conversation over the last week as various streaming sites deal with either editing or altogether removing episodes where characters have delved into the racist trope. An episode of The Office was reworked, while even The Golden Girls saw an episode taken down on Hulu because of mud masks and an off-color joke.
Those involved with shows like Scrubs have dealt with the discussion by talking about it on a podcast and possibly re-editing old episodes to take out the content altogether, but period piece Mad Men will reportedly keep its blackface scene intact when it debuts on its new streaming platforms. Vulture has details about the show’s deal with AMC Networks and IMDB.tv — which is where you’ll be able to stream the show once it all kicks in — and how it will address the season three episode “My Old Kentucky Home.”
In the episode, Roger Sterling hosts a Kentucky Derby party with his new wife, Jane. There’s a lot of tweed and mint juleps and many of the employees of Sterling Cooper at the party, which is highlighted by a moment where Roger dons blackface and sings My Old Kentucky Home to Jane using the song’s original lyrics. While many of the guests were delighted and played along in the episode, a few were very uncomfortable with Sterling’s performance, most notably Don Draper, who got up from his seat in search of a drink in a moment that actually set up a major arc of the season. This layer of story could be why the show will keep the scene when it debuts at its new home.
According to Vulture, the episode will now have the following disclaimer before it begins.
“This episode contains disturbing images related to race in America. One of the characters is shown in blackface as part of an episode that shows how commonplace racism was in America in 1963. In its reliance on historical authenticity, the series producers are committed to exposing the injustices and inequities within our society that continue to this day so we can examine even the most painful parts of our history in order to reflect on who we are today and who we want to become. We are therefore presenting the original episode in its entirety.”
Mad Men was a show that routinely explored the casual racism that existed in the 1960s. Keen viewers were meant to not internalize this racism as normal but show it as a contrast to what’s socially acceptable in the present. No character on Mad Men was a hero, really, and Sterling’s racism was an aspect of who he was as a character. Rather than erase the unsettling moment from the show altogether, AMC has made an effort to further highlight the inappropriate nature of the scene and remind viewers of the often painful and needlessly cruel past for what it was.