Amidst a current media environment where major studios have taken to memory-holing any production that has even the slightest chance of specifically offending the most overtly-sensitive of modern sensibilities, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish has made it clear that his company’s Paramount Plus service will not be engaging in this practice.
Bakish broached the topic of his studio’s historical catalog while fielding questions from The Guardian regarding recent rumors that Paramount may be interested in purchasing and subsequently privatizing local British broadcaster Channel 4 – all of which he ultimately declined to comment on.
“By definition, you have some things that were made in a different time and reflect different sensibilities,” he told the outlet. “I don’t believe in censoring art that was made historically, that’s probably a mistake.”
Addressing audience members who may at any time feel compelled to call for a given piece of content to be outright removed from availability, he added, “It’s all on demand – you don’t have to watch anything you don’t want to.”
As noted above, Bakish’s outlook toward the ever changing tides of offense and cultural acceptability marks him as a noted outlier among his competitors, who in contrast have no qualms with buckling to public pressure at even the slightest hint of outrage.
In 2020, Netflix removed a scene from the ninth episode of The Office’s ninth season, Dwight Christmas, and the entirety of the 14th episode of Community’s second season after some viewers took offense to each episodes’ respective black face jokes – neither of which endorsed the act, but rather drew their humor from how certain characters were ignorant to the fact that it is still highly offensive.
In light of this outrage, Tina Fey also requested that multiple episodes of her sitcom 30 Rock, which featured similar jokes centered on the concept of blackface, be removed from any and all streaming services.
Later that same year, popular Cartoon Network programming block Adult Swim announced that they had “permanently retired” multiple episodes of across their various series, including theAqua Teen Hunger Force Shake Like Me, in which Master Shake gradually begins to turn into a stereotypical black person after being bitten by a ‘radioactive Black man,’ and The Boondocks episode The Story of Jimmy Rebel, whose satire features a country singer singing highly racist lyrics.
Interestingly, clips of the former still remain live on the official Adult Swim YouTube page.
Disney Plus may be the notorious offender when it comes to this practice, having removed numerous episodes of multiple series from their platform.
Such examples include a The Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode where the former fakes dyslexia to get out of doing homework, an episode of the 1994 Fantastic Four cartoon wherein one of the World Trade Center towers is destroyed during a Skrull invasion, and a Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends episode where the titular characters track the Red Skull to an island base filled of Nazi imagery
Notably, Bakish’s anti-censorship stance appears to be a recent development, as Paramount Plus has provably pulled content as recently as last year.
In March 2021, the SpongeBob SquarePants episodes ‘Mid-Life Crustacean’ and ‘Kwarantined Krab’ were removed, the former out of concern that its ‘panty raid’ subplot was “not kid-appropriate” and the latter out of sensitivity for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, from both Paramount Plus and Amazon Prime.
As of writing, while it appears ‘Kwarantined Krab’ has since been restored to both platforms, Mid-Life Crustacean remains unavailable.
What do you make of Bakish’s alleged dedication to anti-censorship? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!