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Cancelling Old TV Shows Isn’t Important When Black People’s Lives Are At Risk

Lucy Connolly

| Last updated 

Cancelling Old TV Shows Isn't Important When Black People's Lives Are At RiskBBC/PA Images

In recent weeks as you’ve scrolled through your social media timelines, you’ll no doubt have noticed it was filled with videos of mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

In the wake of George Floyd‘s death last month, hundreds of thousands of people have gathered worldwide in an attempt to address racial injustice following yet another killing of an unarmed, defenceless black man at the hands of police.


These protests were supposed to be a safe space for people to demand justice for black lives and have already led to the arrest of all four officers involved, while also starting important conversations about defunding the police. Basically, they were working. Protesters had the world’s attention.

Protesters taking a knee George FloydPA Images

Until recently. In recent days, the timeline looks more like this: outrage over certain TV shows being removed; videos of almighty self-described ‘statue protectors’; more outrage over TV shows; and the occasional peaceful protest. Oh, and let’s add in another pinch of outrage just to be safe.

It comes as a selection of shows – such as Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh and Summer Heights High – have been dropped from streaming services including Netflix, UKTV, BritBox and BBC iPlayer, due to their use of blackface or the racist attitudes expressed throughout. In most cases, the programmes are still available to watch elsewhere.


What started as an important and necessary conversation about systemic racism and the unjust treatment of black people has suddenly, seemingly overnight, turned into an angry debate regarding the censorship of completely irrelevant TV programmes – one of which last aired in 1979, a whole 41 years ago.

John Cleese and Connie Booth in Fawlty TowersBBC

Cries of ‘it’s PC gone mad!’ and ‘snowflakes are just ruining everything these days’ filled social media, with many using the so-called cancellation of The Inbetweeners because of its ‘offensive’ content as a prime example. The fact this later turned out to be completely untrue didn’t deter people though, with several tweets feigning outrage going viral in the space of 24 hours.

Less than a month after George Floyd’s death, the news cycle seems to have moved on. The attention of the world is no longer on Black Lives Matter; it’s on our statues, it’s on the violence that erupted over the weekend as a result of misguided patriotism, it’s on Little Britain and Fawlty Towers. It’s on anything but what actually matters.


Because let me be clear: TV does not matter. At a time when black people can’t even go to the shops or go for a run or even sleep in their own bed without getting killed, removing certain episodes of outdated TV shows is not what’s important here. In fact, it could not matter less.

UNILAD spoke to 23-year-old Eva Hudson, from Sheffield, who said this shift of focus away from the Black Lives Matter movement towards TV shows is not only ‘damaging’, but it ‘belittles the real issues and injustices people of colour are facing’ every single day.

Eva explained:


I can promise you now that an episode of Fawlty Towers with a bit of casual racism in it isn’t exactly high on the priority list. I haven’t seen one petition, one person say anything about this – and that’s because no one has asked for this.

I think the Black Lives Matter movement cares more about the abolishment of systemic and institutionalised racism than the removal of one single episode of a TV show that was made 45 years ago. Yet people seem to read these headlines and lap it up every time.

John Boyega Gives Powerful Speech At Black Lives Matter DemonstrationPA Images

After (false) rumours that The Inbetweeners was being removed began circulating last week, the 23-year-old said her Facebook feed was ‘completely taken over by angry people saying things like, “BLM IS GETTING OUT OF HAND NOW, PEOPLE HAVE LOST THE PLOT”.’

‘Countless people were linking BLM with these TV show removals when there is literally no correlation whatsoever,’ she explained. ‘Then when you actually click on the article it goes on to say they’ve been removed from YouTube due to copyright reasons.’


Eva said this just further emphasises how ‘damaging’ such headlines can be, because ‘people are so quick to believe anything they read online at face value without actually looking into it’.

She continued:

I have noticed that a lot of people seem to be more enraged by these TV shows being removed (which they can still access by the way) than the systematic oppression POC have endured for the past 400 years, which is disgusting, and our media are fuelling that.

Promotional still from Inbetweeners Season OneChannel 4

Eva added that however problematic these shows are, there are ‘much bigger issues that need all of our energy right now’, including: getting justice for the victims of Grenfell; getting justice for Belly Mujinga and countless others; signing petitions; protesting; and donating ‘wherever we can’.

‘We also need to be educating ourselves and each other on police brutality [and] racism,’ she explained, adding we also need to be ‘calling people out if they say something racist’ whenever we see it happening. Above all else though, Eva believes we need to be ‘showing love and solidarity’ to people at all times while ‘staying angry about things that actually, really matter’.

In other words, we need to stay angry about the systemic racism which consistently places black people both at a disadvantage and in danger. We do not need to be angry about getting our daily fix of a programme most of us probably haven’t watched in at least five years.

Minneapolis Police Death protests george floydPA Images

Yet that’s exactly what is happening, because corporations have taken it upon themselves to preemptively act – removing TV shows they think could be perceived as offensive without first talking to black people about it.

How many tweets have you seen this past weekend alone, telling people to ‘shut up and stop watching’ if they feel so offended by a TV show? How many have you seen telling people to ‘get a f*cking grip’ or to ‘stop being a snowflake’?

Anger was certainly stirred up, but towards who? Who exactly were those tweets aimed at, that told unknown persons to shut up and get a grip? Who should have followed their advice and just ‘stopped watching’?

inbetweenersChannel 4

More importantly, where was the proof that anyone even asked for the removal of these shows? There wasn’t any, because black people didn’t ask for this, nor were they even asked about it.

And yet it’s black people who ultimately get blamed for it. Those tweets continue to go viral, distracting people from what really matters by finding a new source of outrage.

Instead of talking about systemic change or actively finding ways to get justice for the number of black lives lost far too soon at the hands of a corrupt system, we’re talking about The Inbetweeners for God’s sake – a programme about a group of awkward teenage lads.

Here’s why that’s so wrong:

banning of tv shows tweet blmldnblm/Twitter
banning tv shows tweet blmNesrineMalik/Twitter
tweet about banning tv showsBeeBabs/Twitter
twitter opinion about banning of tv showsSathnam/Twitter
twitter opinion banning TV showsayeshahazarika/Twitter

It’s clear that no matter how well-intentioned the removal of these TV series was – because ultimately, it was a welcome move for many who have long been made to feel uncomfortable by the use of blackface in pop culture – it fans the flames of a distracting culture war.

The longer this goes on, the longer real issues about race and inequality are being pushed to the side and ignored. The longer these issues are being undermined by the very conversation we are having now.

So let’s get back to talking about what really matters, shall we?

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website

Topics: Featured, Black Lives Matter, Now, Protests, Racism, TV


Black Lives Matter and 5 others
  1. Black Lives Matter


  2. ldnblm (TNA)/Twitter


  3. Nesrine Malik/Twitter


  4. Bolu Babalola/Twitter


  5. Sathnam Sanghera/Twitter


  6. Ayesha Hazarika/Twitter


Lucy Connolly
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