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Disney Dumbo poster Getty.jpg

Disney+ Expands Its Content Warning On Movies With Outdated Racial Stereotypes

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | October 16, 2020 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | October 16, 2020 |

Disney Dumbo poster Getty.jpg

When Disney+ launched last year, the much-hyped streaming service faced questions over the inclusion of certain titles and the exclusion of others. If The Walt Disney Company is so committed to pretending that Song of the South never happened then what does that mean for all their other beloved classic titles that are chock full of outdated racial depictions and offensive content? The platform soon added tiny and questionably vague content warnings on movies like Dumbo, Fantasia, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp. Despite the fact that said warnings were tiny, pretty easy to overlook, and blandly inoffensive, a whole lot of bad-faith talking-heads got angry about this so-called censorship. Yup, nothing like censoring a movie by making it readily available to millions of people. Pointing out a bad thing is just as bad as ensuring that nobody ever again gets to see the thing. Sound logic, as always, from the usual suspects. I’m sure they’re already firing up their Change dot org petitions at the latest development from Disney.

The updated content warnings fill up the whole screen for around ten seconds, and they offer an unequivocal stance:

‘This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.’

As Jacob Oller noted, the new disclaimer has clearly learned a few lessons from the one offered by Warner Bros. on its old cartoons. It’s a smart move. No mealy-mouthed whataboutism. No trying to avoid the issue at hand or skim over the flying elephant and his racist crow friends in the room. Just the truth.

The company seems to slowly be moving towards some greater accountability on this issue too. If you visit the website linked to on the disclaimer, you’ll see the company’s mission statement on their ‘power and responsibility to not only uplift and inspire, but also consciously, purposefully and relentlessly champion the spectrum of voices and perspectives in our world.’ They also go into specific details about why certain movies carry the warning. So, for all of you crybabies who think that Disney is giving into the big SJW bully-wagon, why don’t you go look up the image of that buck-toothed cat in The Aristocats who plays the piano with chopsticks and sings ‘Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong’ in an offensive accent.

Disney is also working with a third party advisory council, which includes the African American Film Critics Association and CAPE, the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. It’s a start, one that Disney should have made years ago, and one should never put too much trust in a multi-billion dollar corporate engine driven by profit over altruism, but still, it’s a positive change. After all, Disney is hugely influential not just in terms of pop culture but with the directions that the entertainment industry takes regarding issues of inclusivity, history, and so on. Disney owns so much and controls a staggering portion of what we see, purchase, and learn from. When even they think it’s a smart idea to confront their dark past and offer a brighter future, that’s something to appreciate.

But don’t expect them to get around to acknowledging Song of the South anytime soon. That’s a bit much.

Kayleigh is a features writer and editor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.

Header Image Source: Getty Images.