Disney+’s Content Warning For “Outdated Cultural Depictions” Divides Viewers
The launch of Disney‘s streaming service Disney+ was highly-anticipated and it did not disappoint. New users flocked to the service on November 12th and were pleased to find the full Disney catalog was available to stream including old Disney Channel favorites like Even Stevens and Hannah Montana and the Mouse’s most beloved animated classics.
In recent years, there has been more discussion about some of the more ~unsavory~ themes in Disney films including straight-up racism in Dumbo and a Toy Story 2 scene that reeks of #MeToo. It would appear that The Walt Disney Company has not been ignorant to these conversations and, in fact, may have even been listening!
With the launch of Disney+, some fans noticed that there was a content warning in the descriptions for some old Disney cartoons that read “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.” For Dumbo, it also mentioned tobacco use. So far, The Jungle Book, Lady and The Tramp, The Aristocats, Peter Pan, and Dumbo have been flagged with this warning.
If the movies had been censored with cut scenes based on modern moral codes, there probably would’ve been outrage, but many agreed that this seemed like a pretty fair way to recognize missteps made by the studio in the past and an effort to change societal norms.
Others, however, think that the wording isn’t strong enough and mentioned that some of the stereotypes that are included in Walt’s early work was considered “outdated” at the time of its release. A number of Twitter users pointed to The Warner Brothers content warning, which included more pointed word choice like “ethnic and racial prejudices that … were wrong then and are wrong today.”
The Warner Brothers one is better, more complete, and harder to ignore, but let’s not ignore that this generally the right thing to do. pic.twitter.com/Ii5dxT05jH
— David Mandl (@MandlDA) November 12, 2019
Aladdin and Pocohantas, despite their depictions of racial stereotypes, do not have any disclaimers in their descriptions, according to Twitter user @Jee_vuh. Furthermore, 1940 release Fantasia had a character named Sunflower who perpetuated racist stereotypes and was edited out of the film in 1969. However, the Fantasia disclaimer states it “is presented as originally created” to warn about the other dated racial and gender stereotypes but untimately, that wording is false, and seems to suggest a laziness by Disney at actually confronting these issues.
We can all agree that this is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t necessarily go far enough to right the actual harm that these movies have done to POC since their releases.