Why ‘Mad Men’ is keeping its blackface episode upon its return to streaming

A cast photo for the AMC series "Mad Men"
The cast of AMC’s “Mad Men.”

Every episode of AMC’s “Mad Men” will be available to stream again later this month, including an episode featuring a character in blackface.

On Wednesday, Lionsgate released a statement explaining its decision not to pull Season 3’s “My Old Kentucky Home” from the “Mad Men” catalog, despite the recent removals of blackface episodes from several other series, including “30 Rock,” “Community” and “Scrubs.”

The statement provided to the Los Angeles Times will double as a disclaimer attached to the episode when the period drama moves to Amazon’s IMDb TV on July 15.


“This episode contains disturbing images related to race in America,” the title card will read. “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 third episode of the third season of “Mad Men” sees Roger Sterling (John Slattery) wear blackface while serenading Jane (Peyton List) with a rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home” at a country club Derby party. At one point, Sterling remarks, “I did this at home for her with a little shoe polish. She thought it was a scream.”

While most in the audience laugh at the performance, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is visibly uncomfortable, and asks his wife, Betty (January Jones), if they can leave.

“My Old Kentucky Home” is one of several TV installments featuring blackface to come under reexamination in recent weeks. Last month Tina Fey requested NBC pull four episodes of “30 Rock” featuring blackface from streaming and syndication — and issued a controversial apology “for pain they have caused.”

“30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Golden Girls,” “Community” and “Scrubs” are just a few TV series that have removed episodes or scenes over blackface concerns.

June 30, 2020


A slew of other series, including “Scrubs,” “Community,” “The Office” and “The Golden Girls,” soon followed suit, removing multiple episodes over blackface concerns. However, the practice of deleting blackface scenes has drawn sharp scrutiny online.

Instead of erasing the episodes as if they never happened, many have argued that presenting the original content with a contextual note — a la “Mad Men” — is a more productive approach.

“Mad Men” will be available to watch on IMDb TV for free starting July 15, as well as on AMC in the fall.