'The Office' Edits Out Blackface Scene

The Office S09E09 Still - H 2016
Courtesy of NBC

The Office creator Greg Daniels has cut a scene featuring blackface from an episode of the show.

The 2012 episode "Dwight Christmas" features a brief scene of a character in blackface as part of Dwight's (Rainn Wilson) efforts to get the Dunder Mifflin staff to celebrate a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas. The re-edited episode will replace the previous version on Netflix, its current streaming home (the show will move to NBCUnviersal's Peacock platform in 2021), in syndication and on streaming platforms where it's available for purchase. 

It becomes the latest show to remove scenes or episodes featuring blackface. Episodes of 30 Rock, Scrubs and Community (which, like The Office, all originally aired on NBC) have been taken off their respective streaming platforms, as has U.K. sketch series Little Britain. Late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel recently apologized for performing blackface sketches earlier in their careers, and HBO Max has added a disclaimer to Gone With the Wind about its depiction of slavery, after briefly removing the film from its library.

"The Office is about a group of people trying to work together with mutual respect despite the inappropriate actions of their boss and assistant manager," said Daniels. "The show employed satire to expose unacceptable behavior and deliver a message of inclusion. Today we cut a shot of an actor wearing blackface that was used to criticize a specific racist European practice. Blackface is unacceptable and making the point so graphically is hurtful and wrong. I am sorry for the pain that caused."

The Office is consistently one of the most popular shows on Netflix. It regularly averages more than a billion minutes streamed per week in the United States, according to Nielsen figures.

In the episode, Dwight dresses up as Bersnickel, a German folklore character. Oscar (Oscar Nunez) discovers via online search that Bersnickel's sidekick is character named Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter, "a slave boy often portrayed in colorful pantaloons and blackface." When Stanley (Leslie David Baker), Dunder Mifflin's only Black salesperson, objects, Dwight nervously replies that his family doesn't "blindly stick to every outmoded aspect of our traditions" — then texts warehouse worker Nate (Mark Proksch), who's about to join the party dressed as Black Peter, to warn him away.

The removal or re-editing of relatively recent episodes of TV featuring blackface comes in the wake of nationwide protests for racial justice and as the industry reckons with its record of inclusivity and representation on screen and behind the camera.

The Wrap first reported the news.