Censorship and ‘the Office’: When Can Humour Go Too Far?

I’ve only recently gotten into the sitcom sanctuary that is the US version of ‘the Office’. A comedy about the workplace, the show often goes on rants that some may deem shocking, offensive and even racist. In screening re-runs of the now finished seasons, the NBC has censored out a segment of the Office: the ‘black-face’; a man who briefly appeared in the TV series with his face painted black. The character in question was a companion of Dwight Schrute’s Dutch Santa (the Belsnickel) and was never intended to serve as a commentary on race. The racial and cultural sensitivity of our society has deemed this 2012 episode to be insensitive, racist and offensive but let’s put on our philosophical hats for the moment. What this censorship has taught us it that humour may sometimes go beyond funny and comedic; it can be deemed wrongful and hurtful. Let’s look into censorship: when can humour go too far (and when should it be allowed to)?

I was initially shocked but not surprised that the NBC censored the Office’s black-face. With the Black Lives Matter movement at the forefront of the global stage, there is no awe that a TV network would disallow a distasteful and crude representation of an African American. But is this political correctness gone too far? In my opinion, yes it is.

These days no one can make any comedic representation of someone’s race without getting slammed for it. The Office was obviously not having a ‘dig’ at the African American community and it was in the spirit of humour that it was included in the TV show. The fact that the show has been censored demonstrates the state of our society; we are sensitive to the core. Something that was innocent and acceptable in 2012, is 8 years later: disgraceful, demeaning and derogatory. Understandably, 8 years is a long time in which social norms and rationales have changed but this is something that seems – at least philosophically- quite politically- charged.

What are your thoughts on ‘black-face’ (linked below)? Let us know in the comments.