Scrubs creator and executive producer revealed on Twitter that Hulu is, apparently at his request, removing episodes of the long-running sitcom which featured white actors in blackface makeup. As Hollywood starts to reckon with its past history of racial insensitivity, it has become clear that even in more recent years, when being overtly racist was a no-no for network standards and practices, shows still thought it was okay for actors to appear in blackface. The series apparently featured it in three different episodes, one from season three and two from season five. In the last of the three, "My Chopped Liver," the idea of blackface being offensive was the focus of the joke.
In that episode, J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison) are on their way to what they believe to be a costume party, although no other guests are in costume. Dressed as one another, with Braff in blackface and Faison in whiteface, J.D. questions the appropriateness of what he's doing. Turk assures J.D. that his all-Black fraternity brothers will be fine with it as long as the two are together, and they see that Turk is in on the joke. But when Turk is monentarily distracted, he walks away, resulting in J.D. being beaten up by offended frat brothers. In the other episodes, characters like J.D. or Elliot (Sara Chalke) were combined with, or traded places with, Turk in the series' frequent fantasy sequences, resulting in the white actor being painted brown and/or given a bald cap.
On Fake Doctors, Real Friends, a Scrubs rewatch podcast with Braff and Faison, the pair have discussed some of the show's dated humor, and have tried to put it in context as they work their way through the series. The show, they admit, has a fair amount of toxic masculinity on display (although it almost always comments on it and portrays it as bad), as well as some potentially offensive humor as it pertains to race and sexuality. The series ran for nine seasons beginning in 2001 and was certainly a product of its time, although given the love the characters all had for one another, a lot of it feels less mean-spirited than it would on other shows created around the same time.
Faison, for his part, has said on the show that he is often disappointed by how many non-Black people send him photos of themselves in blackface because they have dressed as Turk for Halloween. Even before the podcast, he had commented on it publicly, saying on Twitter in 2017, "I feel I should remind y'all. White people, if you're going as Turk this Halloween, no need to paint your face brown. Just wear the scrubs."
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