Actor Idris Elba spoke with Radio Times about his thoughts regarding media censorship. In the interview with the magazine (released Tuesday), he says he believes television programs and films that are censored or flagged for jokes deemed inappropriate or offensive should come with a warning label, not be removed from their distribution platforms.
“I’m very much a believer in freedom of speech,” Elba notes, “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.”
Elba’s comments come after several shows pulled episodes involving characters wearing blackface from streaming platforms, including Scrubs, 30 Rock, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. HBOMax also found itself in the censorship conversation by removing Gone With The Wind from its platform over the films’ racist depictions of Black characters. It was restored to the streaming service in late-June with a new disclaimer about the film’s “complicated legacy.”
While Elba says that it’s “fair enough” that those who are in charge of these programs are pulling offensive episodes from being viewed, the 5-time Emmy-nominated actor says that it’s important that people are aware that this content, however inappropriate, is freedom of speech.
“To mock the truth, you have to know the truth,” he continues. “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...I think, moving forward, people should know that freedom of speech is accepted, but the audience should know what they’re getting into. 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.”