Today’s Brooke Boney has spoken out about Netflix’s axing of Chris Lilley’s programs. Picture: Today/Channel 9
Today’s Brooke Boney has spoken out about Netflix’s axing of Chris Lilley’s programs. Picture: Today/Channel 9

‘Slippery slope’: Today host’s warning

Brooke Boney has weighed in on several streaming giants' decision to wipe problematic movies and TV shows from their service, describing the move as a "slippery slope".

Reporting on the news that Netflix is pulling Chris Lilley programs from its library during the Today show on Thursday, Boney, who is an Indigenous Australian, warned of the dangers of erasing the cinematic past.

"Obviously the characters are controversial, some are hurtful because they're making fun of people of colour, let's be honest," the entertainment presenter said.

"People of colour aren't represented enough on screen and you've got people who are white making fun of that, that's obviously unhelpful and not nice. But I think when we start removing content and when we start tearing things down it's a very slippery slope."

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Lilley as Jonah from Tonga.
Lilley as Jonah from Tonga.

Later in the show, Boney addressed the audience directly as she spoke about the recent announcements.

"I want to talk about the removal of some shows and movies on streaming services over the depiction of black people. There is a problem with representation of people of colour on our screens. We know that. We also now know that black face is inappropriate. There is no question about that either. But does going back through the archives and tearing down art that's been made in the past really help us move forward?" she asked.

"If I have children, I don't want them to see that's how they fit into the world but I would also like to show them how poorly our people were treated in the past. These things hurt because it feels like these people are punching down.

"But if we're going to go back through history and start removing things that are inappropriate by modern standards, then we will need to get rid of all those movies by Harvey Weinstein or the music by Michael Jackson.

"If these companies want to create lasting change and not just virtue signal, they need to support new talent. They need to open doors that have been closed to people of colour before.

"If they truly want to make a difference in the way that we tell stories about who we are as a society, then we don't do that by deleting things we've done in the past - we do it by making sure we don't do it again in the future and being more inclusive and responsible with our storytelling. If you're going to do change, make it meaningful."

On Thursday, Netflix announced it was axing Lilley's shows, including We Can Be Heroes, Summer Heights High, Angry Boys, and Jonah From Tonga over their portrayal of non-white Australians.

They were originally broadcast on the ABC in 2005, 2007, 2011, and 2014, respectively, and saw Lilley don blackface to play African-American rapper S.mouse, brownface for Tongan student Jonah, and regularly depict Asian characters.

Lilley as Ricky Wong in We Can Be Heroes.
Lilley as Ricky Wong in We Can Be Heroes.

Netflix has been contacted for comment.

It follows the announcement from HBO Max on Wednesday that it was pulling the Oscar-winning Civil War epic Gone With The Wind from its library amid heightened racial tensions following the death of George Floyd.

The 1939 film, set on an Atlanta plantation, has received plenty of criticism in the modern era for its depiction of black people.

While Gone With The Wind has been temporarily removed from HBO Max, a spokesperson for the company explained that plans were in place to restore it but with added "historical context".

"Gone With The Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society," the statement said. "These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible."

Earlier this week, the BBC made the decision to axe Little Britain, which stars creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams, from its library.

In the sketch show, the pair play several non-white characters, including a transsexual Thai woman named Ting Tong and a black woman named Desiree DuVere.

Little Britain is no longer available to stream.
Little Britain is no longer available to stream.





Originally published as 'Slippery slope': Today host's warning