Hulu pulls a ‘Golden Girls’ episode where there were ‘blackface’ concerns

Celebrities attend the BAFTA Nominees Party

I have vivid memories of watching The Golden Girls as a little girl. It’s weird to think about it now, the fact that a show about four senior citizens living together in Florida was so popular across so many demographics. It’s still a popular show in reruns, and the youths are still rediscovering it and loving it. While I haven’t watched an episode of GG in years, I feel strongly that many of the episodes and themes would probably hold up today. But in the year of our lord Beyonce 2020, one episode of the Golden Girls is now being withdrawn from circulation. Because of “blackface” concerns, although…

Hulu has removed an episode of The Golden Girls that contains a scene in which Betty White and Rue McClanahan are mistaken for wearing blackface.

“Mixed Feelings”, episode 23 in season 3 of the sitcom, aired in 1988 and shows Michael (Scott Jacoby), the son of Dorothy (Beatrice Author), planning to wed a much older Black woman, Lorraine (Rosalind Cash).

Dororthy is concerned over the age difference while Lorraine’s family disapproves of their daughter marrying a white man, and thus the two families attempt to end the marriage. In the episode, Lorraine’s family finds Rose (Betty White) and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) trying a new mud facial treatment, and as they greet their family, Rose says “This is mud on our faces, we’re not really Black.”

This becomes the latest show to remove scenes or episodes featuring blackface. Episodes of 30 Rock, Scrubs and Community have been taken off their respective streaming platforms, as has U.K. sketch series Little Britain. Late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel recently apologized for performing blackface sketches earlier in their careers, and HBO Max has added a disclaimer to Gone With the Wind about its depiction of slavery, after briefly removing the film from its library. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Hulu for comment.

[From THR]

I’ve seen some mixed feelings elsewhere, from white and black activists. It’s not that the “joke” was inoffensive, it’s that this actually isn’t a “blackface” case, and to say that the episode was pulled because of “blackface” is kind of false. And some would argue that it would actually be better to simply see the episodes of all of these TV shows as they aired, with some kind of larger conversation about how common this was on television (and advertising) and how f–ked up that is. By removing episodes, some say we’re denying the larger conversation.

Celebrities attend the BAFTA Nominees Party

Photos courtesy of The Golden Girls.

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42 Responses to “Hulu pulls a ‘Golden Girls’ episode where there were ‘blackface’ concerns”

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  1. TIFFANY says:

    The episode should have stayed. The episode as a whole was fantastic, especially the conversation between Dorothy and Lorraine’s mother in the kitchen with the extended family. It touched on race which is the conversation we all should be having anyway.

    • Slowsnow says:

      The GG touched on everything: homophobia, race, ageism, sexism in a check yourself and educative way. It was such a win for television in so many ways. I re-watched many times. It had its problems sometimes but overall it was awesome. At this point I think people want to out-woke each other and I doubt their real motivations.
      Meanwhile in St. Louis… A couple pulls two guns on demonstrators…

      PS: I am all against the statues and for decolonising the curriculum though. That’s my fight.

      • Meghan says:

        I love the episode 72 Hours where Rose has to get an HIV test and Blanche admits she has had one before, and Rose basically says she doesn’t deserve to have it because she is a good person and Blanche just yells “AIDS is not a bad person’s disease, Rose. It is not God punishing people for their sins.”

        What I actually love about Mixed Blessings is that when Lorraine’s mother comes in, she thinks Dorothy is the housekeeper. (I can’t stand Michael though, he gets on my nerves)

      • Betsy says:

        @Meghan – yeah, I always disliked that Michael character either. I didn’t want Lorraine to marry him either just because it was obvious she was too good for him!

      • M.A.F. says:

        @Betsy – in a later season we find out that Lorraine left him. All of their kids kind of sucked tbh.

    • LadyMTL says:

      MTE…never mind that they were wearing masks (mud masks, if memory serves) and not blackface, but that episode itself is so good. It really did touch on everything from racism to ageism and then some. It’s a shame that Hulu seems to be ignoring the context of the episode as a whole.

    • Adrianna says:

      The Twitter cancel culture is doing more sanitizing. Looks like mud mask facials to me.

  2. Slowsnow says:

    I read a really upsetting article on the Guardian yesterday about Parler (I think?) and another Youtube type of platform that is welcoming all the banned people from Twitter etc. It has alt-right, white suprematist and neo-Mazi websites with violent images of black/brown people being hurt. Katie Hopkins (for the Brits reading this) is there.
    So… Now I don’t know what to think about these cultural re-adjustments and banishing people without questioning the whole of social media legislation and creative contents released out there. If we do a case-by-case without an international get together between democratic countries, I don’t know. This is long due and a 2WW situation where we need to create new laws. In my country hate speech is against the law and a nazi skinhead (who was trying to create a party) was emprisined for a few years for hate speech against minorities and inciting xenophobia.

    • Shane says:

      I’m going to check out that article. It sounds so interesting, particularly because it’s something I’ve been wondering about as well. Where do racists go when we banish them? Donald Sterling (racist Former Clippers owner comes to mind)… I bet they fund lawsuits for extremists in trouble

      I absolutely believe they should be called out for their bullshxt… but in someways, when we leave people with no choice of having anywhere to go, that’s when we radicalise them. I don’t know the answer to this, I’m just thinking out loud. If anyone has any solutions please share 😊

    • Andrew’s Nemesis says:

      If only Katie Hopkins’ mother had had a headache the night she was conceived

    • Margles says:

      The thing is, how are they going to make money on the platform? A YouTube-esque platform requires ad revenue to pay for the enormous costs related to upkeep. I highly doubt that a platform catering primarily to neo-naughtzees is going to generate much ad-revenue. YouTube doesn’t kick them off because YouTube is moral (far from it). If kicks them off because the advertisers don’t want their commercials appearing on crazy videos.

  3. Busyann says:

    I have vague memories of this episode and didn’t think it was blackface. It’s a mud facial for pete’s sake. Context is what matters here. Leave Blanche and Rose alone!

    Ken Burns was on Cuomo Prime Time last week, and was basically like, “yeah, we shouldn’t be taking down everything.” This is the reason history matters.

    • SomeChick says:

      It IS a terrible joke. At least it isn’t going unnoticed.

      But, yeah, everyone is trying to Marie Kondo their vault before anyone notices how bad it was.

      We see them.

    • Mumbles says:

      The subtext of the joke is that blackface IS offensive, and how embarrassed Blanche and Rose are that the mud masks may be mistaken for it. If anything the joke fortifies the idea that blackface is bad. Same for an episode where Archie Bunker – a racist – wears it to his lodge for a fake minstrel show. (Haven’t heard that episode being pulled, but I suspect it might be soon). This is a lot different than people like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel wearing it to “play” black people.

      • Roslyn Capell says:

        That’s what I took from the episode of Golden Girls when I saw it. Pulling that episode tells me that those who are doing the pulling aren’t bothering to analyse the context.

  4. tammy says:

    I have been watching it before bed every night and I swear it is much better as an adult. They do hold up and I would recommend re watching it to everyone… especially if you havent watched in 10-20 years.

  5. MellyMel says:

    Golden Girls is one of my all-time favorite shows and this episode is really good for a number of reasons. This is ridiculous. There is no blackface in this episode at all. Context matters. We asked for the police to be defunded and for black ppl to stop being killed…this is so silly and a case of performative “concern”. It completely takes away from the actual issues needing to be addressed.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      I agree. This episode actually showed white characters express concern about being perceived as doing blackface (because of the circumstances in the plot of the episode) which directly acknowledges that doing blackface is wrong

      • Tia says:

        This is the equivalent of ‘post X if you support Y’ on Facebook. It does nothing but lets people who can’t be bothered to *actually* support a cause *feel* they are doing something.

        Please note, I don’t mean people who do this *as well as* actually taking action or to record action they are taking. I mean the people who do one post and think ‘job done’.

  6. reef says:

    This is starting to get dumb and I’m trying not to put my conspiracy theory hat on but wtf? How did “Defund the Police and Invest in Our Communities” turn into let’s get rid of controversial episodes of shows or white voice actors step down from your roles. Nobody protesting in the streets right now gives a sh-t.

  7. Miranda says:

    This feels so patronizing, like the racial equivalent of telling a woman “don’t you worry your pretty little head about that,” or men unilaterally deciding what we want, because our silly lady brains are so easily confused.

  8. Mellie says:

    I’m all for statues and flags being changed/removed, but we need to start being realistic here. I just love the GG’s, they were really ahead of the times if you watch it. Older people openly discussing race, alternative lifestyles, sex…that show was great.

  9. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    The Golden Girls is a fantastic show and they covered so many issues before anyone would really touch on them. They did it in humorous and heartfelt ways. This particular scene is taken out of context.

    The one episode is that’s always been problematic is the second-to-last one, where Sofia acts as the stereotypical mammie because Dorothy was marrying Blanche’s uncle. She also does an accent. I always cringe when I happen upon it.

  10. Nlopez says:

    Looks like blackface to me. Im glad they pulled it. I dont need to see history. Anyone worried about history can read about it. I won’t be responding to any negativity.

    • Andrew’s Nemesis says:

      Your world must be TINY.

    • MB says:

      Have you even seen the episode? As a commenter mentioned up-thread, this scene is built around the social commentary that blackface is terrible and the two characters in this scene were genuinely worried that they would be perceived as “doing blackface” when all they were doing was wearing a skin care mask.

    • Valerie says:

      Have you seen the episode?

  11. TeamMeg says:

    I agree the episode should have stayed. Whitewashing gone wild misses the point of BLM. It sounds like this episode had a lot of good content in it, too. Maybe the network will bring back Episode 323 and use this entire situation (on/off/back on) as a teaching tool.

  12. Becklu says:

    This wasn’t blackface they were mud masks and honestly there are real systemic stuff that needs to be done to correct the injustice in our society, and it’s not not calling the master bedroom, master it is ending red lining and predatory and discriminatory home loans.

    I don’t think any Tv show should use black face but the golden girls weren’t but I also agree with Adam this isn’t about trying to right a wrong it’s about protecting Tina Fey’s image and brand.

    We need to be talking about fairly and properly funding education, defunding the police, housing reform, job hiring equity not a sitcom (that did not use black face) from the 80s. It feels like people are doing this so they don’t have to change their poor behavior and actually fix the problem.

  13. Stacy Dresden says:

    Removing this episode doesn’t do any good and is ridiculous

  14. lucy2 says:

    Kind of shocking to me just how many shows, including fairly current shows, had “blackface episodes”.
    Context is important. Some should probably stay, some should probably be removed or edited. But as others have said, this is such a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the actual work that has to be done, and people can not do something so simple as omitting an old TV episode and pat themselves on the back.

    GG holds up remarkably well, every so often it’s my watching-it-in-the-background show.

  15. Valiantly Varnished says:

    If only Hollywood and white folks in power would spend this energy on things that make an ACTUAL difference when it comes to systemic racism within this country and their own business. No one cares about a “maybe” blackface episode from an 80’s sitcom. Not a single black person I know – including myself – cares about this. What we DO care about is how many black people are in writer’s rooms, how many black director’s are being hired, show creators, producers, actors, etc.
    Spare us this lazy ploy to make it LOOK like you’re doing something when in reality the status quo remains.

  16. Mash says:

    I remember this episode. The main story was an interracial, May-December marriage and when Blanche and Rose came into the room mid-mud facial they were embarrassed specifically because they weren’t doing blackface and didn’t want to offend.

    • Valerie says:

      Exactly! I know we constantly say context and intent matter, and in this case, they really do.

  17. TRicia says:

    This move was completely asinine and pointless. I’m a huge GG fan, have the dvd boxed set and have seen all episodes countless times. I’m also a black woman and that episode has nothing to do with blackface. If anything, they should’ve left the episode up as a teachable moment about how we can overcome initial differences, etc.Smfh

  18. February-Pisces says:

    I haven’t seen this episode so I can’t judge it’s context. They could have edited the scene out or even the line about ‘not being black’ and said nothing about it. I don’t think I would have looked at that face mask and though it was black face as it is just a mud mask, but I guess they were being cautious.

    The problem is when the media makes a big deal about something that is as minor as this, it trivialises the whole point. It makes it seem like BLMs asked for this. They didn’t, we want to remove genuine black face as it is racist and insensitive and mocks people of colour, we don’t care if Blanche and Rose are wearing a mud mask. I feel like right wing media always use really trivial examples to make it look like liberals are over reacting. They love to give the impression that liberal people think ‘avocados have feelings” or that “plants have human rights” as a way to make them sound crazy and diminish our opinions on the real important matters.

    Anyway I have really gotten into golden girls lately, it’s on tv twice at lunch time during lock down and I absolutely love it. I wish it was on Netflix so I can binge watch the entire thing.

  19. Hyrule Castle says:

    White people solving what they think is the problem of racism:

    Everything BUT actually arresting the people murdering Black people.

  20. paddingtonjr says:

    I still enjoy the Golden Girls and will watch it occasionally on Hulu or Hallmark Channel. Many of its themes are still relevant today, especially now that Baby Boomers are getting older and Gen-Xers are taking care of children and parents. GG was the first show I remember really featuring women who had raised their kids and lost their husbands (through death or divorce) but were still vibrant, ambitious, and sexual individuals. I always had a soft spot for Rose because my grandparents’ were named Rose and Charlie and my grandmother Rose passed in the mid-1980s.

    I think there are some TV episodes (or series) that should be taken off the air, but I think people need to really look at the episode and not remove it because it “might” be controversial or offensive. I liked the “Mixed Feelings” episode because there was an honest discussion about race, age and prejudices on both sides.

  21. shalla7 says:

    Wondering about the famous Gone With the Wind parody from the Carol Burnett TV show, in which Vicki Lawrence plays the Butterfly McQueen character (not in blackface)?

  22. Angh says:

    This is completely dumb. They removed that episode where there was a serious discussion about race relations over that one scene? The Golden Girls is actually pretty progressive on a lot of issues sometimes even more so than some of the shows today. There was even an episode on The Golden Palace (the spin-off) where Don Cheadle confronted Blanche because of a confederate flag. Even little people were treated with dignity. Sure, a lot of jokes were thrown at his expense but the character was a doctor, he was smart, and funny and I like the twist at the end where he ends up dumping Rose for not being Jewish which caused her to make a fool out of herself. And they had a gay wedding in an 80s sitcom! Yeesh.

  23. shelly says:

    Is this show even still on the air? Howard stern in black face using the N word on his show, and he is still there. seems to be selective who gets canned and who doesn’t.