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‘I Don’t Believe In Censorship’: Idris Elba on Why Racist Shows and Movies Should Have Warning Labels Instead

As anti-racism protests continue across the country following the deaths of Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, brands like Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima have also joined in the fight against racism by rebranding their products that have been deemed insensitive toward Black Americans.  

Movies and television shows like “Gone with the Wind” and “30 Rock” have also removed episodes that featured racist depictions and blackface from streaming services and purchasing platforms. 

Idris Elba believes racist shows and movies shouldn’t be censored. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

During an interview with Radio Times, actor Idris Elba, however, doesn’t necessarily agree with the way racist television shows and films were being handled and revealed that he was actually against censorship. 

The 47-year-old instead suggested a rating system that would warn viewers of a film or show with outdated and/or offensive perspectives. “I’m very much a believer in freedom of speech,” Elba told the publication. “But the thing about freedom of speech is that it’s not suitable for everybody. That’s why we have a rating system. We tell you that this particular content is rated U, PG, 15, 18, X,” referring to the U.K.‘s rating system before he jokingly added, “I don’t know anything about X, by the way.”

The “Luther” actor continued, “To mock the truth, you have to know the truth. But to censor racist themes within a show, to pull it — wait a second, I think viewers should know that people made shows like this.”

Elba, while understanding the need to block certain content for fear it may spread false or even ignorant information, believed that those creating said media should have that freedom to do so. Still, audiences should also be given a “heads up.” “Out of respect for the time and the movement, commissioners and archive-holders pulling things they think are exceptionally tone-deaf at this time— fair enough and good for you. But I think, moving forward, people should know that freedom of speech is accepted, but the audience should know what they’re getting into.” 

The “Hobbs and Shaw” actor continued, “I don’t believe in censorship. I believe that we should be allowed to say what we want to say. Because, after all, we’re storymakers.”

Elba’s comment comes on the heels of shows like “Mad Men” that have been snatched off streaming services and re-released to now include a warning label for viewers. According to a report from Variety, an episode entitled “My Old Kentucky Home,” in which Roger Sterling (a central character played by John Slattery) appeared in blackface at a party and sings to his wife, will now have a title card in front of it to “provide context for the blackface scene.” The card will appear before the episode on all platforms.

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