Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Idris Elba on pulling racist content: "Viewers should know that people made shows like this"

Illustration for article titled Idris Elba on pulling racist content: Viewers should know that people made shows like this
Photo: Emma McIntyre (Getty Images)

The conversation surrounding the entertainment industry’s attempt to scrub away its inherently racist history is split between those who support the change of heart and those who find the sudden erasure pretty disingenuous. Based on his recent interview with RadioTimes, Idris Elba appears to fall into the latter camp, suggesting that there are better ways to acknowledge racist TV shows without pulling them off of the air and ostensibly pretending that it didn’t happen.

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“That’s why we have a rating system: We tell you that this particular content is rated U, PG, 15, 18,” said the Luther actor. “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.” Elba 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.”

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Elba’s insight comes after shows like 30 Rock, Community, The Office, and others announced the removal or late editing of episodes that so much as alluded to blackface. In certain cases, like that of 30 Rock, the removals came after years of receiving public scrutiny. As of now, there are no plans for the episodes to return to streaming platforms in the same fashion as Gone With The Wind’s recent return to HBO Max. (The film was recently pulled from the streaming platform and was re-uploaded with a warning of its racist imagery, which appears before the film.) Elba, who notes that he “believes in free speech,” feels that with proper warnings, people should be allowed to engage with content however they choose.

“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.”

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Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.

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