Mad Men explains why it isn't removing its blackface episode

The show takes a different route to a swathe of other titles pulling racially sensitive episodes.

Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
2 min read

Jon Hamm in Mad Men.


One of the greatest TV shows of all time will soon be free to stream on IMDb TV starting July 15. But before Mad Men gets there, producer Lionsgate has addressed its decision to keep an episode depicting the use of blackface, amid a swathe of other shows that have pulled racially sensitive episodes.

"This episode contains disturbing images related to race in America," Lionsgate said in a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times, which will also double as a disclaimer before the episode. "One of the characters is shown in blackface as part of an episode that shows how commonplace racism was in America in 1963."

"In its reliance on historical authenticity, the series producers are committed to exposing the injustices and inequities within our society that continue to this day so we can examine even the most painful parts of our history in order to reflect on who we are today and who we want to become. We are therefore presenting the original episode in its entirety."

The episode in question is the third of season 3, called My Old Kentucky Home. At a country club party, Roger Stirling (John Slattery) wears blackface as he serenades Jane (Peyton List) with My Old Kentucky Home, an anti-slavery ballad written by Stephen Foster thought to be composed in 1852. Stirling says at one point of the blackface, "I did this at home for her with a little shoe polish. She thought it was a scream."

Jon Hamm's character Don Draper appears visibly uncomfortable in the scene and asks his wife Betty (January Jones) if they can leave.

Lionsgate's decision to include the episode of the American period drama about a fictional advertising agency in the '60s, takes a different route to shows like 30 Rock, Scrubs, Community, The Office and The Golden Girls, which have all pulled episodes with blackface concerns.

The Mad Men decision has been met with a mixed response.

Community actress Yvette Nicole Brown tweeted: "I saw that episode and it was the last episode of #MadMen I ever watched. Figured it wasn't a show created for folks like me. But I'm sure the new disclaimer makes it all good for everyone." 

But another user questioned the need for disclaimers, tweeting: "Will every #madmen episode also have a disclaimer stating 'This episode contains disturbing images that show how commonplace sexism was in America in the 1960's?'"

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