Hulu Shushes “Sunny”

Censorship, Information Access, Intellectual Freedom Issues

By: Ross Sempek

Dear Hulu 

Are we not adults?

Recently you scrubbed some “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episodes from your platform. What’s important is that these episodes aren’t altogether unavailable, but, like with most things, this is about the principle. 

During my nth watch-through of the series I noticed that some of the round ten-episode seasons had a crooked number in their place. Nine episodes? Since when? Well since late-June 2020, apparently. And here’s how powerful this sort of censorship is. Me, an inveterate Sunny fanboy, and I couldn’t recall what the scrubbed episodes were.

One thing about Sunny is that they do comedy right in that they’re equal-opportunity offenders. Nobody escapes their satirical skewer; especially fragile, sexually-abusive, power-hungry, sociopathic white men like Dennis Reynolds. In fact, Sunny satirized the 2016 election in the episode “The Gang Makes Paddy’s Great Again” in which they overtly equate Dennis with Trump. Brilliant stuff, especially considering his meticulous character development that had been established prior to this episode. And if you’ve never watched the series, here’s the elevator pitch: 

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia poster

Sunny is a show about a group of 5 white friends (The Gang) who are terrible people, and it’s fun to laugh at their hubris-fueled misadventures and codependent relationships.

Considering that you got rid of some episodes which featured blackface and other potentially-offensive content, it seems off to me that you’re OK with one type of satire, but not another. More specifically, it’s strange that you’re more discriminatory in your choice of comedic foils than the supposed offenders themselves. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but there’s a difference between a blackface halloween costume and blackface on a character performed by an actor. Especially in this context, which is important here. In fact, it’s always important. But apparently it’s something you don’t think I can process with my adult brain. You’re protecting me and the world from being offended. How about instead of censoring the episodes, you have some sort of trigger warning appear before the show. Wait, you do?!

“The following is intended only for mature audiences. Viewer discretion advised.”

Hmm. Maybe too vague for some, but “mature audiences” is pretty pointed. I think we can expect mature audiences (us) to understand the importance of context. Like the context we need for the episodes that you, astoundingly, kept in rotation. 

We can still watch the pilot, “The Gang Gets Racist,” in which Charlie speaks the N word. We can still watch the episode “Hero or Hate Crime?” in which Frank and Charlie say the F and N word respectively, the latter in front of a Black woman. We can still watch the episode “Pop-pop: The Final Solution” in which Dennis and Dee need to decide whether they should euthanize their comatose Nazi Grandfather. We can still watch the episode “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs” in which the Gang unflinchingly imprisons about a dozen people inside of a burning apartment. And we can still watch the episode “Mac Fights Gay Marriage” in which Mac, a closeted gay man with body dysmorphia, a convict-father and subsequent daddy issues projects his own shame onto a biracial couple (A Black man and a white a trans woman) by trying to proselytize Christianity in order to get them to reconsider their union. As you can gather, it’s a complex show. It’s much deeper than the surface-level ribaldry they utilize to deflect the faint-of-heart.   

So I guess we aren’t adults. According to you (and you’d be partially correct) we’re humans that have been conditioned into demanding that we be told what the Truth is, rather than humans who use their own agency to discover what is True. It’s so much more convenient now! Here, I fixed the trigger warning so people can bail immediately.

“The following is intended only for mature audiences with an equitable sense of humor. Hit ‘menu’ to go back.”



Ross Sempek

Ross Sempek is a recent MLIS graduate and a Library Assistant at the Happy Valley Public Library just outside of Portland, Oregon. He comes from a blue-collar family that values art, literature, and an even consideration for all world-views. This informs his passion for intellectual freedom, which he considers to be the bedrock for blooming to one’s fullest potential. It defines this country’s unique freedoms and allows an unfettered fulfillment of one’s purpose in life. When he is not actively championing librarianship, he loves lounging with his cat, cycling, and doing crossword puzzles – He’s even written a handful of puzzles himself.


  • YEEEEESSSSSS. Hats off to you. My husband and I just canceled our membership. I’m glad I got to decide that making fun of people only makes you look more ridiculous.

  • Hey, thanks Maria. There are so many layers to that show that it’s absurd for Hulu to cherry pick like this. Some food for thought: me being a blackface apologist is apparently fine with ALA, but my blog post directly challenging antiracism in terms of IF is a bridge too far. They won’t publish opinions that go against this fragile orthodoxy.


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