Following the worldwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, the entertainment industry has finally started to reflect on the decisions of its past, which feels long overdue in the year 2020. Over the last few weeks, studios, networks, and streaming services have started removing racist or offensive content from their programs. This has resulted in quite a few popular sitcoms having episodes edited or removed entirely for featuring the use of blackface. Shows like Scrubs and 30 Rock have had episodes taken off of streaming services over this issue, and now the same has happened with Community.
The episode in question is called "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons," and its the 14th episode of Community Season 2. In the episode, the main characters reluctantly get together for a game of D&D. When going around the table and introducing their characters, the camera cuts to Ken Jeong's Ben Chang, who is covered head-to-toe in black paint, along with a bright white wig and pointy elf ears. The group criticizes Chang for what is clearly a terrible thing to do, but he feels justified in his attire because his character is a "Dark Elf."
ComicBook.com confirmed with Netflix that the episode was indeed being removed from the series lineup. There's no word yet as to whether or not the episode will return with an edit or some sort of warning.
Despite the warranted concerns over the use of blackface, what makes the removal of this episode interesting is that many consider it as one of the best of the series due to how it deals with issues like depression, bullying, and recognizing signs that someone needs help.
The episode centers around another student named Neil, who was given the name "Fat Neil" by Jeff Winger. Jeff and the group try to help Neil by playing D&D with him, but Pierce Hawthorne continues to bully him relentlessly, nearly ruining the game. Removing the use of blackface is unquestionably the right thing to do in any circumstance, this one included. The issue of this episode being removed just comes with an additional pressure due to the episode's important conversation about bullying. While some audiences have supported the removal of entire episodes from services, others have wished that they remain, but with a disclaimer acknowledging the insensitive themes depicted.
The news of Community's episode removal comes on the heels of Netflix editing an episode of The Office, electing to remove a scene that featured a character in blackface. Since Community's episode featured Ben Chang in multiple scenes, it was likely viewed as a much more difficult fix.
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.