Netflix removes The League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh over blackface

Shows are among many that have been taken down from streaming sites in recent days

James Crump
Thursday 11 June 2020 10:14
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The League of Gentlemen: 'We didn't burn him'

Netflix has removed both The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen from its streaming service, because of the use of blackface.

The League of Gentleman is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer, and the broadcasting corporation confirmed to the Guardian, that there are no plans to remove the three series’ and specials.

The Spirit of Jazz in The Mighty Boosh and Papa Lazarou in The League of Gentlemen are both portrayed by white actors, wearing blackface, and the outlet said that these depictions were no longer seen as palatable by Netflix.

The co-creator of The Mighty Boosh, Noel Fielding, portrayed Spirit of Jazz, who was the ghost of fictional musician Howlin’ Jimmy Jefferson.

Mr Fielding also portrayed the character Old Gregg on the show, which appears to be inspired by musician Rick James, with the actor seemingly wearing blackface in his portrayal.

Papa Lazarou was portrayed by The League of Gentlemen co-creator Reece Shearsmith, who has always denied that the character was supposed to be black.

Speaking to the Independent in February, Mr Shearsmith said: “It was not me doing a black man,” and added: ‘It was always this clown-like make-up and we just came up with what we thought was the scariest idea to have in a sort of Child Catcher-like way.

“And I don’t think we ever had any complaints then.”

The removals come amid protests in the UK and US in opposition to police brutality, after the death of black man George Floyd, who died after being detained by Derek Chauvin.

Mr Chauvin was a Minneapolis police officer at the time, but has since been fired and charged with second degree murder and manslaughter.

The protests have put renewed focus on depictions of blackface in the media, and on Wednesday, presenters Ant and Dec apologised for their past use of yellowface and blackface.

“During past episodes of Saturday Night Takeaway, we impersonated people of colour in the undercover segment of the show,” their statement reads.

“We realise that this was wrong and want to say that we are sincerely sorry to everyone that was offended. We purposely stopped doing this several years ago and certainly would not make these sketches today.”

Pressure was put on the BBC to remove Little Britain from BBC iPlayer and BritBox, for its repeated depictions of blackface and yellowface by creators, Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

On Tuesday, the BBC removed it from the streaming services, and 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.”

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