The act of using blackface has become a taboo in the mainstream due to the history of the act being used to make fun of and humiliate black people in minstrel shows. However, blackface has once again become a topic of discussion after four episodes of “30 Rock” containing blackface have been set to be removed.
Upon request from series creator and star Tina Fey, a number of episodes of “30 Rock” are set to be pulled from streaming services and syndication by the end of this week. In a note to the platforms, Fey said that she believed it was best if the episodes were taken out of circulation and that she apologized for any harm the episodes caused.
“I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images,” Fey said in a note. “Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness.”
In these removed episodes, it features actors Jane Krakowski and Jon Hamm, who was nominated for an Emmy for his guest appearances on the show, donning blackface on separate occasions.
On one of the removed episodes, Krakowski’s character, Jenna Maroney, wears blackface to a party where she is dressed up as Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann. In the episode, she was attending a New Year’s Eve party with the theme being 2010 pop culture with her being dressed up as “Black Swan,” a reference to the Natalie Portman film.
After the removal was announced, many on Twitter made comments about the episodes and Tina Fey.
Writer and journalist Keith Nelson Jr. commented on how the episodes are only recently being taken down seven years after “30 Rock” went off the air.
“I want people to realize, NBC and Tina Fey are only doing this because of negative pressure they may feel if they keep it,” Nelson tweeted. “Blackface was bad in 2013 when the show stopped airing and it’s bad now.”
Writer Joshua Rivera said on Twitter that the episodes should be left up inside of trying to erase them.
“Getting more annoyed at this the more I think about it,” Rivera tweeted. “There are so many thoughtful ways to engage with this and Fey (who barely pretends to care about race) just wants us to forget it.”
However, Fey hasn’t been the only one receiving flak for previous uses of blackface on her show.
Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has been receiving hate after clips of his use of blackface on “The Man Show” resurfaced.
On “The Man Show,” a comedy show that ran from 1999 to 2004, Kimmel donned blackface numerous times doing impressions of Utah Jazz player Karl Malone and television host Oprah Winfrey. Kimmel’s portrayal of Malone was a recurring skit on his show where he mocked the player for being inarticulate.
Kimmel has gone on to apologize for his impressions stating that he never considered others would view it as more than “an imitation of a fellow human being.”
These most recent incidents are not new as other comedians such as Jimmy Fallon and Howard Stern have received criticism for their past uses of blackface. However, it seems that now people online are now using these past acts as a way to show these celebrities that any use of blackface is wrong.