BBC is facing online criticism for keeping Asian slurs in old episodes of a popular 2000s show that was supposedly edited to adjust to the current “cultural landscape.”
“Little Britain,” a sketch comedy series by British comedians Matt Lucas and David Walliams, was pulled from BBC’s iPlayer streaming platform in 2020 after it was heavily criticized for its use of blackface.
“There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer which we regularly review,” a representative from the British broadcaster said at the time. “Times have changed since ‘Little Britain’ first aired, so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”
Two years later, the show has returned to the streaming platform with specific scenes edited out.
A statement issued by a BBC representative to HuffPost UK explained that the alterations “better reflect the changes in the cultural landscape over the last twenty years since the show was first made.”
Some of the scenes that were removed included those with Walliams’ character Desiree DeVere, which he portrayed in blackface. The show now also includes a warning message about “discriminatory language.”
While some welcomed the changes, several critics on social media pointed out that the show still has scenes with racial slurs pertaining to an East Asian character.
One controversial scene shows Walliams’ character Linda Flint commenting on an Asian man: “Um, how can I describe him? He’s got straight black hair, yellowish skin, slight smell of soy sauce.”
“That’s it, the Ching Chong Chinaman,” the character added. The scene was part of a running gag that was repeated throughout the show.
On Twitter, Daily Telegraph arts and entertainment editor Anita Singh lambasted the show while sharing screen shots of the series.
“So Matt Lucas and David Walliams have cut the blackface from Little Britain to ‘reflect the changes in the cultural landscape’ (and get it back on iPlayer) yet this has stayed in,” she wrote.
Several commenters agreed with Singh, with some calling on BBC to remove the series altogether.
Other users, however, argued that sketches like the one involving the East Asian character were intended to ridicule and comment on racist and prejudiced people.
BBC’s response to the recent online criticism reflected a similar argument.
“All jokes in our output are judged on context and intent,” the broadcaster said in a statement. “The sketches in which the character Linda Flint makes reference to the appearance or race of a series of people are intended to expose and ridicule some of the outdated prejudices and racism that still exist in parts of British society, which is more apparent when viewing the sketches within the context of a full episode, and across the series as a whole.”