British star Idris Elba advocated that racism in film and TV shows should be no different from sexism, with a rating system to warn viewers of racist viewpoints.
“That’s why we have a rating system: We tell you that this particular content is rated U, PG, 15, 18,” said Elba to the Radio Times. “To mock the truth, you have to know the truth. But to censor racist themes within a show, to pull it – wait a second, I think viewers should know that people made shows like this.”
He continued: “Out of respect for the time and the movement, commissioners and archive-holders pulling things they think are exceptionally tone-deaf at this time – fair enough and good for you. But I think, moving forward, people should know that freedom of speech is accepted, but the audience should know what they’re getting into.”
Elba’s comments came after several shows removed episodes, mostly for depictions of blackface, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. “The Office” and “Community” are two of several that pulled episodes from rotation.
Netflix and Hulu also pulled an entire episode of “Community.” In the “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” episode, Chang (played by Ken Jeong) wears dark make-up to play a “dark elf.” In blackface, he prompts Shirley (played by Yvette Nicole Brown) to comment on ignoring hate crimes.
“We support the decision to remove the episode,” said a spokesperson for “Community” producer Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Episodes were also pulled from “30 Rock” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” while the entire “Little Britain” and “Come Fly With Me” series were removed from several services.
“Gone with the Wind,” the highest-grossing film of all time in 1939, was temporarily removed from HBO Max. The removal followed a Los Angeles Times op-ed written by “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley, who called for the film to be pulled as it perpetuates racial stereotypes.
HBO Max pulled the film to take time to add a discussion about its historical context and racist depictions, and then put the film back on the service. In the intro video, which plays before the movie starts, Turner Classic Movies host and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart discusses “why this 1939 epic drama should be viewed in its original form, contextualized and discussed.”
Elba stars in the U.K. sitcom “In The Long Run,” which is returning for a third season and will play a new character in next year’s “The Suicide Squad.”
“I don’t believe in censorship,” said Elba. “I believe that we should be allowed to say what we want to say. Because, after all, we’re story-makers.”