Why was Little Britain removed from Netflix, iPlayer and BritBox?

The sketch comedy is no longer available on several streaming services.

david-walliams-matt-lucas

As the Black Lives Matter protests draw attention towards racism throughout society, the media we consume is one aspect of life which has come under reassessment.

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Some older films and television shows have faced criticism for offensive depictions of people of colour, including sketch comedy Little Britain, in which David Walliams and Matt Lucas wore blackface.

Debuting on the radio in 2000, a television adaptation began in 2003 and continued until 2007, followed by a second collaboration Come Fly With Me which has also come under fire.

Here’s what you need to know about the controversy…

Why was Little Britain removed?

Little Britain was removed from Netflix, BBC iPlayer and BritBox due to offensive depictions of people of colour by David Walliams and Matt Lucas.

The sketch comedy featured numerous characters, including an overweight black woman named Desiree DeVere and African American Reverend Jesse King, for which the duo wore blackface makeup.

BritBox and BBC iPlayer said in separate statements that the series had been removed from their respective services because “times have changed”.

Lucas would go on to play a black character again in Come Fly With Me, where he portrayed a Jamaican woman named Precious.

In addition to wearing blackface, Little Britain and Come Fly With Me saw the actors mimic other ethnic backgrounds, with Lucas playing Thai bride Ting Tong and Pakistani airport employee Taaj.

Many people have criticised these characters for perpetuating racist stereotypes.

What have David Walliams and Matt Lucas said about Little Britain’s use of blackface?

Matt Lucas and David Walliams

Both David Walliams and Matt Lucas have acknowledged the jokes made in Little Britain are dated, with the latter expressing regret over their inclusion in the programme.

In a 2017 article for The Big Issue, Lucas said: “If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn’t make those jokes about transvestites. I wouldn’t play black characters. Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people.

“We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now. Society has moved on a lot since then, and my own views have evolved. There was no bad intent there – the only thing you could accuse us of was greed. We just wanted to show off about what a diverse bunch of people we could play.

“Now I think it’s lazy for white people to get a laugh just by playing black characters. My aim is to entertain, I don’t have any other agenda. And as I’ve got older, I’ve become more empathetic, I care more about hurting people.”

In 2018, Walliams discussed Little Britain with Radio Times: “You’d definitely do it differently because it’s a different time now. It’s hard to say specifically how it would be different. There’s all kinds of tolerances that change. People understand people’s predicaments more now. Maybe it’s, ‘We see this differently, we’ve got more information,’ and it would be a different type of joke.”

RadioTimes.com reached out to Walliams and Lucas for comment when Little Britain was removed from streaming platforms.

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