Amid Black Lives Matter protests, many white people (white actors included) are looking inward, examining their own privilege and complicity during a national conversation about systemic racism and white supremacy. Of course, this reckoning includes the entertainment industry.
While episodes of 30 Rock and Golden Girls have been pulled from streaming services for featuring blackface (though the jury is definitely still out on that GG example), it seems like a more urgent transformation is happening in the world of animated TV. So far, The Simpsons, Big Mouth, Family Guy, and more shows are starting to answer for casting white actors as characters of color. (Quick reminder: This was always wrong, and we should not applaud those involved for just figuring that out in 2020.)
Here’s every series that has spoken out and every actor who has stepped down in recent weeks.
Big Mouth and Jenny Slate
On June 24, Jenny Slate announced she would no longer voice Missy Foreman-Greenwald on Big Mouth, a role she’s played since 2017. Although Netflix renewed the series through season six, Slate will be ending her portrayal of Missy as “one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.”
“I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play ‘Missy’ because her mom is Jewish and white—as I am,” Slate wrote in an Instagram statement. “But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people. I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy.”
Slate went on to describe her actions as an “act of erasure of Black people” and take accountability. “I am so very sorry,” she concluded her statement. “Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”
The creators of Big Mouth also released a statement, shared on Nick Kroll’s Instagram account.
Central Park and Kristen Bell
Hours after Slate’s announcement, actor Kristen Bell released a statement from Apple TV+’s new animated musical series, Central Park. Although she will be staying on the show as a new character, Bell will no longer portray the mixed-race character Molly.
“This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity,” Bell added to the statement in her caption. “Here is one of mine. Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed-race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience.”