Four episodes of 30 Rock, including two featuring Jane Krakowski’s Jenna character in blackface, are being removed from subscription streaming services Hulu and Amazon Prime and have also been made unavailable for sale on purchase platforms such as iTunes and Google Play. The episodes, which will no longer air on traditional TV either, were pulled at the request of NBCUniversal executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. A source tells Vulture the four episodes, some of which have already vanished, should be gone by the end of this week.
“As we strive to do the work and do better in regards to race in America, we believe that these episodes featuring actors in race-changing makeup are best taken out of circulation,” Fey wrote in a letter to the platforms that streamed or sold 30 Rock. “I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused. Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness. I thank NBCUniversal for honoring this request.”
The two Jenna blackface episodes being removed, which were gone at least a week ago, per Reddit observers, are from the third and fifth seasons of 30 Rock. The season-three episode, “Believe in the Stars,” aired first on November 6, 2008, and includes a plot in which Jenna (Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) decide to swap identities in order to determine whether black men or white women face more challenges in society. This “experiment” includes Jenna darkening her skin. Her character again appears in blackface in the season-five episode “Christmas Attack Zone,” this time dressed as former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann at a party with boyfriend Paul (Will Forte), who dressed as Natalie Portman, in a spoof of Black Swan.
In addition, Universal is removing season six’s live episode in which guest star Jon Hamm appears in a wig and crude blackface, part of a spoof of the racist radio and TV show Amos ’n’ Andy. The studio is also pulling the East Coast version of 30 Rock’s first live episode (season five’s “Live Show”); the West Coast version will remain. Vulture is trying to find out the precise reason the East Coast version has been removed. That version did include a fake Fox News chyron that read “Exclusive Interview With Kenyan Liar,” a reference to the baseless birther conspiracy pushed by far-right politicians, including Donald Trump. The West Coast version of the live episode subs in a chyron reading “Impartial Interview With Barack Obammunist.”
The 30 Rock news comes two weeks after WarnerMedia’s HBO Max platform removed Gone With the Wind from the newly launched service. In that instance, however, the company said the film would return with new warnings and an introduction from TCM host and University of Chicago media studies professor Jacqueline Stewart explaining why the movie is problematic. Amazon is currently weighing whether or not to take down or edit episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard, which features the racist Confederate flag in every episode.