Hulu criticized for pulling 'Golden Girls' mud mask episode: It's 'not blackface'

The episode, which originally aired in 1988, shows two of the main characters wearing mud masks while talking to a Black family.
THE GOLDEN GIRLS
Hulu is being widely criticized after removing a 1988 episode of the show in which Betty White's Rose and Rue McClanahan's Blanche wear mud masks.Walt Disney Television via Getty
/ Source: Today

After Hulu recently removed an episode of "The Golden Girls" from its platform, critics are calling the streaming giant's decision an "overcorrection."

The episode in question, titled "Mixed Blessings," originally aired on NBC in 1988. It revolves around Dorothy, played by Beatrice Arthur, being concerned that her son is marrying a considerably older woman, Lorraine, played by Rosalind Cash. Meanwhile, Lorraine's mother, played by Virginia Capers, is upset because Dorothy's son is white and her daughter is Black.

The controversial scene comes when two of Dorothy's friends — Rose, played by Betty White, and Blanche, played by Rue McClanahan — are trying out a mud face mask and meet Lorraine's family for the first time.

"This is mud on our faces. We’re not really Black," Rose says, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Twitter users were quick to criticize Hulu's decision, with the most prevalent argument being that the characters weren't actually wearing blackface.

As writer Roxane Gay explained, "Removing this episode is weird, counterproductive and stupid. It diminishes the effort to actually end racism. It’s just so dumb."

Podcaster and author Erica Williams Simon added: "First of all, they were in mud masks not blackface. And second of all, in what world does 'Stop killing us' sound like 'Please remove episodes of Golden Girls'? I didn't see that ask on anyone's protest sign."

She continued in a follow-up tweet, "To be clear: I’m not 'attacking' Hulu. I would just hate for the seriousness of this moment and movement to get lost in symbolic (and sometimes silly) overcorrections."

Journalist and blogger Imani Gandy questioned the decision by sharing her support for "The Golden Girls" characters.

"I like how they think Black people don’t know our Golden Girls," she tweeted. "Dorothy, Rose, Sophia and Blanche are the least problematic white women in all of television, which is fairly impressive considering that show was on air in the ... mid-80s."

One user who goes by Raevin on Twitter called removing the episode "a calculated effort to cheapen our message." Another stressed that "Mud facials and Black people aren’t synonymous."

Hulu's decision follows several other distributors removing TV scenes with depictions of blackface.

Earlier this month, Tina Fey asked that four episodes of “30 Rock,” which originally aired on NBC, be pulled from streaming services and syndication, as they feature characters in blackface. The episodes in question are also no longer available to purchase on iTunes or Google Play.

“As we strive to do the work and do better in regards to race in America, we believe that these episodes featuring actors in race-changing makeup are best taken out of circulation,” Fey wrote in a statement. “I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused. Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness. I thank NBCUniversal for honoring this request.”

(NBCUniversal is also the parent company of NBC News.)

Hulu did not immediately respond to TODAY's request for comment. It is unclear whether the episode of "The Golden Girls" will return to the streaming platform.