By Newsweek |
Beyond 'The Office': Here Are Several More Shows Taken Down in the Era of Cancel Culture
While NBC's The Office is the latest to join the list of cancel culture casualties after the series' "Diversity Day" episode was removed from a recent Sunday Comedy Central marathon, its omission follows that of other popular programming pulled by networks, cable channels and streaming platforms.
The range of that content is broad, spanning from '80s television to a famous Muppet, from cop shows to cartoons. Beyond television, the list expands outside of television to classic films, including one long hailed by many fans and critics as the greatest movie ever made.
TV Land's The Dukes of Hazzard
In July of 2015, TV Land pulled reruns of the '80s CBS action-comedy series Dukes of Hazzard due to its depiction of the Confederate flag. Executives of the ViacomCBS- owned cable channel made the decision in the aftermath of the June 17 shooting in Charleston, S.C. by Dylann Roof. The 21-year old white supremacist—a fan of the Confederacy known in the 19th century for its defense of slavery—murdered nine members of a Black South Carolina church.
At the time, the show's John Schneider expressed his sadness over the move, noting his dismay that the show with its old-fashioned values of honesty, courage, chivalry and rebelliousness, was now cast in this light because of the actions of one angry and misguided individual.
HBO Max's South Park
in June of 2020 HBO Max acquired South Park without the adult animated sitcom's five most controversial episodes, all of which which depicted religious figures, including the Prophet Muhammad. They included "Super Best Friends" from Season 5, "Cartoon Wars" Part I and II from Season 10, "200" from Season 14 and "201" from Season 14. Previously, they were unavailable to stream on services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Comedy Central, iTunes and South Park Studios.
The series has long generated controversy from both viewers and fans with its mockery of religion and other taboo topics by its creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The two were threatened in 2010 concerning the show's prior depictions of Muhammad, which eventually led to Comedy Central pulling the episodes.
'The "show about nothing" is arguably considered one of TV's best sitcoms of all time. However, in 1998, NBC ended up apologizing for the show's episode "The Puerto Rican Day" before pulling it from syndication. That was despite it being the series' second-highest-rated episode of all time with 38.8 million viewers.
In the episode, the Seinfeld gang is stuck in a traffic jam during New York City's annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. Controversy arose over the scene in which the character of Cosmo Kramer accidentally burns and then stomps on the Puerto Rican flag. NBC didn't air the episode as a rerun while Columbia TriStar withdrew it. The episode with the flag-burning scene unedited was added back to syndication in August 2002.
In May of 2018, ABC canceled the revived version of the highly popular sitcom that initially ran from 1988 to 1997, hours after its star and co-creator Roseanne Barr posted a racist tweet. The social media post concerned Valerie Jarrett, a Black woman who was a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama, and read "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj."
While Barr later apologized, it was too little too late. With the backing of Disney's CEO Bob Iger, ABC's Entertainment President Channing Dungey called Barr's Twitter statement "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent" with ABC's values. Despite the show garnering huge ratings with its return to the airwaves after two decades, it was ultimately dropped.
The show did go on without Barr through a spin-off titled The Conners the following October, featuring the American working class family without its matriarch. Barr's character was written as dying suddenly from an accidental overdose.
Paramount Network's Cops
The gritty reality show with its signature theme song "Bad Boys" by Inner Circle, ended its six-year run on Paramount Network in June of 2020. The cancellation occurred in the wake of George Floyd's death.
The non-scripted Cops, which featured police officers patrolling streets for criminals in various American cities—sometimes in a voyeuristic manner—first premiered on Fox in 1989 and aired for 25 seasons. Spike TV ordered new episodes in 2013 and the docuseries carried over to the Paramount Network after the cable channel was rebranded in 2018.
A&E's Live PD
Following the cancelation of Paramount Network's Cops, A&E announced it was canceling Live PD, hosted by Dan Abrams. The decision, made jointly with MGM's Big Fish Entertainment that produced the series, also came in the aftermath of George's Floyd's killing as both protesters and some politicians called for police reform.
Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes
Classic Looney Tunes characters like Pepe Le Pew have been cancelled and even re-created due to changing public attitudes. The character of Le Pew, which was featured in the first Warner Bros. Space Jam in 1996, did not re-appear in the sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy. New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow said in a tweet that the cartoon character "added to rape culture."
There are no future plans for the striped skunk, first introduced to audiences in 1945, to appear on forthcoming Looney Toons, Bugs Bunny Builders or Tiny Toons Looniversity.
Disney+'s The Muppet Show
While Kermit and his cast of characters didn't get the boot outright, Disney+ did slap a disclaimer on 17 episodes of the The Muppet Show warning viewers about potentially offensive content in February of this year. The move was part of the streamer's bigger push to flag "negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures."
Examples of episode with the disclaimer included those that featured less than flattering stereotypes of Native Americans and people from the Middle East. Another one had iconic singer Johnny Cash performing in front of a Confederate battle flag.
Since the cancellation of Looney Tunes' Pepe Le Pew because of his constant quest for the female species, which was thought to require a whole lot of character revision, there's been a mandate by some to cancel Miss Piggy. Apparently, the piggy's shtick, which includes aggressive advances toward Kermit, have some saying her overbearing behavior is similar to the skunk's.
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Disney's Dumbo, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, Swiss Family Robinson, The AristoCats and Song of the South
In response to criticism about racial stereotypes in some of Disney's older films, Disney+ in October 2020 posted the aforementioned warning about "negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures" added to certain content. Following that, the streamer dropped several of its classics featuring certain depictions and character portrayals from their Kids Profile. The move meant that children under 7 years old could no longer watch titles like Dumbo, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, Swiss Family Robinson and The AristoCats. While over the years, Disney's 1946 film Song of the South was occasionally re-released in theaters—most recently in 1986—it has never been released on video or DVD in the United States.
HBO Max's Gone with the Wind
In June 2020, the streamer removed the classic 1939 film, which many over the age of 50 grew up hearing was the greatest epic movie of all time, along with the likes of masterpieces featured in most college film courses like Citizen Kane.
HBO Max later added the film back to its inventory with an introductory disclaimer explaining the movie's historical context.
Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, the film had long been scrutinized for its depiction of slavery.