Toggle pulls episode after outcry over use of 'blackface' in original series

PHOTO: Twitter / Stomp

The practice of blackface, or using makeup to impersonate a dark-skinned character, has long been frowned upon as offensive due to its historical usage in caricatures and negative portrayals of black people.

Yet, that's exactly what online video streaming service Toggle did on an episode of Chinese-language series "I Want To Be A Star".

The episode saw actor Shane Pow dressing up as a black actor by putting on black makeup on his face and an afro wig.

Unsurprisingly, reactions online have been overwhelmingly negative, with many netizens expressing disbelief and criticising the use of blackface as racist and offensive.

On Twitter, user peachy keen (@bxbyqueen) suggested that a reason for the struggles of local television series is "blatant discrimination masked as jokes".

Meanwhile on Facebook, South China Morning Post's Asia correspondent Bhavan Jaipragas described the scene as "unacceptable", and called on MediaCorp, which runs Toggle, to provide an explanation.

News website Coconuts Singapore also questioned how the episode managed to get approval.

Following the outcry, Toggle has removed the episode from its website, and also posted an apology on its Twitter page.

"The scene has been perceived as being racially insensitive by some viewers, although that was never our intention in the production. We appreciate the feedback and truly apologise to viewers who have been affected by this portrayal," Toggle said in its statement.

However, the apology still did not assuage many netizens' anger. "No, it wasn't 'perceived as being racially insensitive by some viewers'. It IS racially insensitive," wrote user Ila S. (@danceinthedarth).

A number of users also shared a link to a 2014 article on blackface by American website Vox. According to the article, the practice was common in the 19th century when white actors would use black grease paint on their faces to depict slaves or free black people.

"To be clear, these weren't flattering representations. At all. Taking place against the backdrop of a society that systematically mistreated and dehumanised black people, they were mocking portrayals that reinforced the idea that African-Americans were inferior in every way," Vox explained.

Toggle had also previously come under fire for another controvesy earlier this year, which saw social media personality Saffron Sharpe critiquing the fashion choices of members of the public. Netizens found the video to be distasteful and mean-spirited.

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