The producers of the popular American sitcom The Office have edited a season 9 episode which showed one of the characters wearing blackface. According to a report published by The Wrap, distributor NBCUniversal edited the controversial scene out of the episode as it appears on several streaming platforms.
The episode in question, titled “Dwight’s Christmas,” originally aired in 2012 and followed the titular obnoxious employee enforcing his strange, outdated and at times offensive Schrute clan holiday rituals onto his colleagues. One of these traditions involved Dwight dressing up as a fictional character named Belsnickel. When one of his colleagues tells him that Belsnickel’s historical helper, Black Peter, is “a slave boy often portrayed in colorful pantaloons and blackface,” Dwight reassures him that his family doesn’t stick to “every outmoded aspect of our traditions” before proceeding to text his friend, done up in blackface, not to show up at the party.
The Office currently shows on a number of streaming platforms, each of which has been provided with a different solution to the problem. According to Decider, NBCUniversal has “replaced” “Dwight’s Christmas” on Netflix, while Peacock, whose service will become available in 2021, will include an updated version of the episode.
While speaking to reporters over at The Wrap, the show’s EP – who oversaw the writers’ room which produced this particular gag back in the day – ensured that his team had no racist intentions.
“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,” he said. “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 caused.”
The Office is only the latest series to remove scenes involving blackface. In the past, both Scrubs and 30 Rock have deleted episodes which feature a similar gag. Despite their efforts though, the actors featured in some of these scenes, including Jimmy Kimmel and Tina Fey, continue to face backlash for their involvement.
Although audiences have long found these scenes offensive, their opinions usually fell on deaf ears. Not until the civil rights protests in response to the death of George Floyd, an African American victim of racially-motivated police brutality, did entertainment executives start to apply greater scrutiny when it comes to their culturally outdated content.