Netflix, the BBC and BritBox have all removed episodes of the series “Little Britain” from their libraries because of sketches involving blackface.
The BBC show, which premiered in 2003 and was written by and stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams, was pulled from Netflix on Friday, according to Variety, which adds that the other two networks yanked the content this week. All three streamers also removed the comedians’ follow-up 2010-11 series “Come Fly With Me.”
“There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer which we regularly review,” a BBC spokesperson told Variety. “Times have changed since ‘Little Britain’ first aired, so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.” The story was first reported by the Daily Mail.
The two series featured several controversial characters, including a black woman named Desiree DeVere, played by Walliams in full blackface makeup, and a Pakistani airline worker named Taaj, performed by Lucas. In April, the creators were slapped on social media for a telethon appearance in which they seemed to poke fun of a theory that people eating bats in China sparked the coronavirus pandemic. “Little Britain have done blackface and yellowface, so should I be surprised they opened with an Eating Bat joke? No…” said one Twitter commenter.
Lucas, 46, has previously expressed regret for some of his portrayals, which have received renewed criticism in light of Black Lives Matter protests worldwide in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s May 25 death while in Minneapolis police custody.
“If I could go back and do ‘Little Britain’ again, I wouldn’t make those jokes about transvestites. I wouldn’t play black characters,” the “Bridesmaids” actor said in a 2017 interview. “Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now.”
The “Little Britain” comics aren’t the only ones who have recently been criticized for performing in blackface. “The Tonight Show” host and “Saturday Night Live” alum Jimmy Fallon repeatedly apologized — saying he is “not a racist” — after a 2000 “SNL” sketch resurfaced in which he played Chris Rock while wearing blackface.
“I had to really examine myself in the mirror this week because a story came out about me on ‘SNL’ doing an impression of Chris Rock in blackface,” he said. “And I was horrified. Not of people trying to ‘cancel’ me or cancel this show, which is scary enough. The thing that haunted me the most was, ‘How do I say I love this person?’”
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