Ladies and gentlemen, we did it. We've found and eliminated the source of America's racism. It turns out it was a season three episode of The Golden Girls where Rose and Blanche put on mud facial masks. Now that the episode has been removed from Hulu, racial harmony will reign.
It actually won't, of course. When millions took to the streets all over the world to protest the murder of George Floyd, police brutality, and the racism hardwired into the American criminal justice system, they were not fighting to get an episode of a 33-year old sitcom removed from a streaming service. Here are some people who agree...
Not that the joke of the episode needs to be explained, but maybe some context is needed. Dorothy's son is marrying a black woman. The woman's mother is against the idea of her daughter marrying a white man for reasons that begin and end with the general concept of America. There's immediate tension when Rose and Blanche enter the room wearing mud face masks. Rose is a loveable idiot with zero social tact (think a slightly less gullible small-town yokel than Kenneth from 30 Rock). Naturally, Rose's attempt at diffusing the tension includes saying the dumbest thing possible, which is what she does in every situation. She says, "this is mud on our faces, we're not really Black." The joke isn't about blackface. It's that Rose is so dumb she thinks someone will see her mud mask and assume she's magically transformed into a completely different human.
There are legit conversation to be had about questionable depictions of race on TV and what we do with episodes or movies that haven't aged well. Do we remove them or leave them up with a warning like HBO Max recently did with Gone with the Wind? It's good that white voice actors are stepping away from their roles as black characters. It's nice that Aunt Jemima, a corporate mascot rooted in old racist stereotypes, is finally gone. But in the direct fallout of the George Floyd protests and the very specific demands laid out, it all feels like a cheap participation trophy when people were demanding a Stanley Cup.
Americans, especially American corporations, will strip down all the surface-level displays of anything that can even remotely be considered racist, but leave the racist power structures at the heart of it all standing, untouched. We love eating around the racism.
The Golden Girls episode is just another moment proving that the whiter parts of the U.S. still have no idea how to talk about race. It's a country that, as a whole, is sitting at the negotiation table with BIPOC to hear their demands, then offering one low-balled counter-offer after another, thinking they're giving up so, so much by changing the syrup lady. "Oh, you want to defund the police so their obscene budgets can be used on expanding social programs instead of turning cops into occupying military forces who use that military might to beat the shit out of Black and brown people? Well, how about we remove that one D&D episode of Community that everyone likes instead?"
On some level, it's nice that finally - FINALLY - something is being done about the casually terrible ways Hollywood depicts race. But until the racism and military strength of polices forces are addressed, everything else will feel like it falls pathetically and insultingly short.
Luis can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Catch him on the "In Broad Daylight" podcast with Cracked alums Adam Tod Brown and Ian Fortey! Check out his regular contributions to Macaulay Culkin's BunnyEars.com and his "Meditation Minute" segments on the Bunny Ears podcast. Listen to the first episode on Youtube!
Top Image: Buena Vista Television/NBC