Netflix has quietly removed an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia from its catalogue, possibly because it included the use of blackface. Season 6, Episode 9, "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth," showed Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) in blackface. Fans are split over whether removing the episode from streaming services is the right response.
The offending episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was removed from Netflix on Thursday, June 11, according to a report by Digital Spy. The series was only on Netflix in overseas markets like the U.K. and Europe. In the U.S., it is available to stream on Hulu, where Season 6, Episode 9 is still available at the time of this writing. So far, Netflix has not responded to the move to take the episode down.
The episode in question consists mostly of a parody of the Lethal Weapon franchise, with Mac wearing blackface to portray Murtaugh — originally played by Danny Glover. Dee is cast in the gang's homemade movie as well, playing a Black woman. While this episode was taken down, Season 9, Episode 9, "The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 6," was left up. Here both Mac and Dee reprise their roles.
The removal of this episode confused many fans and led to a some spirited conversations online. These two episodes do nothing to defend the use of blackface — in them, Mac and Dee are constantly ridiculed and called down for their offensive costumes. More generally, the main characters of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are not painted as heroes in their show. Most episodes make it clear that their behavior is wrong and often criminal.
Still, some felt that there was no appropriate context for this kind of comedy, even if it was self-aware and ironic. Others defended Netflix, saying that it was better to be safe than sorry on an issue like this with such historical weight and potential for harm.
This is just one of the programs Netflix has removed in recent weeks due to the inclusion of blackface. The shows Angry Boys, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes and Jonah From Tonga have all been removed for this reason. Meanwhile, Netflix is highlighting its "Black Lives Matter collection" — a playlist of movies and TV shows highlighting Black creators and Black-led stories.
So far, neither McElhenney or Olson have responded to the removal of this episode nor criticisms for their recent use of blackface. However, both have posted their support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and protesters around the world.