'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' Finally Crossed The Line, Rob McElhenney Says
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It may have taken 10 years, eight seasons, and a healthy smattering of think pieces questioning how exactly It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia is a) still on the air b) doesn't owe roughly $10,000,000 to the FCC and c) hasn't been socially shunned into oblivion, alongside everyone who has so much as grabbed a coffee for Danny DeVito before he
ruined saved Christmas by emerging naked from a leather couch, but it seems the team behind the long-running FXX sitcom has finally done something they never have before …
“The Gang Addresses What The Hell Is Going On With Those Blackface Episodes”
*do do do do do do doooo dooooo doooooo*
Yep, following the premiere of Sunny's 15th season on Friday, the show's long, sordid history of yellowface, brownface, and blackface – disturbing occurrences most frequently popping up in the show's Lethal Weapon remake episodes starting with season six's “Dee Reynolds: Shaping America’s Youth” -- was apparently a hot topic on and off screen among the show's creators/writers/stars/football team owners -- the latter in the case of Rob McElhenney who plays Mac when he's not being referred to as Ryan Reynold's pal and/or Mark Wahlberg.
In "In The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 7," which aired as the second installment of the show's two-part season premiere last week, the gang addressed their historical use of alarming racial caricatures within the PPCU (Paddy's Pub Cinematic Universe) by attempting to make a blackface-free follow-up to the Mel Gibson movie after their other homemade versions were pulled from their local library for racist depictions – a premise mirroring how five respective Sunny episodes recently met the same demise on Hulu (though one later quietly returned).
Yet in a prime, meta example of art imitating life and then life imitating the aforementioned art, McElhenney took a page from the script he penned, acknowledging, like his character, that *gasps!* sometimes the Sunny team takes things a little too far when it comes to gauging what's appropriate for the gang – or well, the standards of society as a whole.
“I find that my barometer is off for what’s appropriate sometimes in situations because, like, we’ve spent 15 years making a show about the worst people on the planet, and because it’s satire, we lean so heavily into this idea," McElhenney explained in a press conference for FX network. “We are always, like, right on the razor’s edge, but that’s the only way that satire works."
However, it seems this proclivity for being “3 edgy 5 me” as the kids call it, seemingly has its setbacks beyond merely thinking blackface is ever a good idea – namely, making everyone else in your writer's room go “….huh?” when you pitch a wildly offensive idea poised for Mac, Dennis, Charlie, Dee, Frank – or better yet, no one at all -- rather than any actual human. “Then I go and do something else, and I may be pitching something, and then I realize, like, oh, it’s wholly inappropriate for the show what I’m doing because these are supposed to be real human beings,” he continued, adding that the Sunny gang "are cartoon characters, and we can, kind of, get away with a whole lot more.”
And based on the installment from last week, it seems that “a whole lot more” will probably not include blackface anymore – thank f--king God -- a sentiment McElhenney, who is apparently also bearing the new multi-hyphenate role of Sunny's “racism-related snafus spokesperson,” echoed in a recent New York Times profile.
“At its foundation, it’s a show about five ignorant, white people, right?” McElhenney said. “So, at first we thought, well, how does it even make sense to have different points of view in there?” Yet through the years, it seems they realized that actually broadcasting racist depictions and stereotypes on national television wasn't the best way to comment on racism – who'da thunk? – rethinking their approach.
“Then we were like, Oh my God, of course,” he continued. “Who could better understand how it feels to be in the wake of ignorant white people than people who aren’t ignorant white people? Ignorant white men, specifically.”
So, folks here's to Sunny somewhat getting its s--t together. It may have taken nearly two decades, but hey, of the most offensive show on television can ease up a little bit, so can the rest of society. Progress?
Top Image: FXX