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Little Britain removed from BBC iPlayer, Brit Box and Netflix over blackface concerns

‘Times have changed’, the BBC said in a statement

Adam White
Tuesday 09 June 2020 15:45 BST
Little Britain sketches: Big Night In

Little Britain has been removed from BBC iPlayer and BritBox amid concerns about its use of blackface and racist humour.

The removal of the sketch series, starring David Walliams and Matt Lucas, followed its removal from Netflix UK last Friday (5 June).

In a statement, a spokesperson for the BBC said: “There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review. Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”

Little Britain has repeatedly come under fire in recent years for its reliance on blackface and yellowface for humour. Both Walliams and Lucas dressed up as black and Asian women for the series, playing characters including an overweight Caribbean woman and a mail order bride named Ting Tong.

Other recurring characters have been accused of being ableist and transphobic.

In May, a Little Britain sketch for the BBC’s Big Night In drew 180 complaints, specifically a joke in which a character said he wanted to eat a bat – itself a reference to conspiracy theories about the origins of coronavirus.

In 2017, Lucas said that a Little Britain reboot would have to be radically different as it would “upset a lot of people” if it came back exactly the same. He acknowledged that the show made jokes that would no longer be acceptable.

While reports in March claimed that Netflix and the BBC were in a tug of war over the mooted Little Britain revival, something teased by both Walliams and Lucas in recent months, fresh controversy over its humour may have cast doubt over its return.

The ongoing international protests against systemic racism and police brutality have further shone a spotlight on racist entertainment and stars previously accused of racism.

Mark Wahlberg’s history of racially motivated attacks as a teenager resurfaced after he came out in support of Black Lives Matter, while The Flash actor Hartley Sawyer was fired from the series after the unearthing of racist tweets.

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