VIDEO: Disney Plus adds disclaimer about racist stereotypes

Disney’s disclaimer is a good way to begin discussion about the larger issue of racism

Disney’s new streaming service has added a disclaimer to “Dumbo,” “Peter Pan” and other classics because they depict racist stereotypes, underscoring a challenge media companies face when they resurrect older movies in modern times.

The move comes as Disney Plus seems to be an instant hit. It attracted 10 million subscribers in just one day. The disclaimer reads, “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

Companies have been grappling for years with how to address stereotypes that were in TV shows and movies decades ago but look jarring today. Streaming brings the problem to the fore.

In “Dumbo,” from 1941, crows that help Dumbo learn to fly are depicted with exaggerated black stereotypical voices. The lead crow’s name is “Jim Crow,” a term that describes a set of laws that legalized segregation. In “Peter Pan,” from 1953, Native American characters are caricatured. Other Disney movies with the disclaimer include “The Jungle Book” and “Swiss Family Robinson.”

“Pocahontas” and “Aladdin” do not have it, despite rumblings by some that those films contain stereotypes, too.

ALSO WATCH: Disney Plus gives Canadians a streaming platform that nearly matches U.S. version

On personal computers, the disclaimer appears as part of the text description of shows and movies underneath the video player. It’s less prominent on a cellphone’s smaller screen. Viewers are instructed to tap on a “details” tab for an “advisory.”

Disney’s disclaimer echoes what other media companies have done in response to problematic videos, but many people are calling on Disney to do more.

The company “needs to follow through in making a more robust statement that this was wrong, and these depictions were wrong,” said Psyche Williams-Forson, chairwoman of American studies at the University of Maryland at College Park. “Yes, we’re at a different time, but we’re also not at a different time.”

She said it is important that the images are shown rather than deleted, because viewers should be encouraged to talk with their children and others about the videos and their part in our cultural history.

Disney’s disclaimer is a good way to begin discussion about the larger issue of racism that is embedded in our cultural history, said Gayle Wald, American studies chairwoman at George Washington University.

“Our cultural patrimony in the end is deeply tethered to our histories of racism, our histories of colonialism and our histories of sexism, so in that sense it helps to open up questions,” she said.

Wald said Disney is “the most culturally iconic and well-known purveyor of this sort of narrative and imagery,” but it’s by no means alone.

Universal Pictures’ teen comedy “Sixteen Candles” has long been decried for stereotyping Asians with its “Long Duk Dong” character.

Warner Bros. faced a similar problem with its “Tom and Jerry” cartoons that are available for streaming. Some of the cartoons now carry a disclaimer as well, but it goes further than Disney’s statement.

Rather than refer to vague “cultural depictions,” the Warner Bros. statement calls its own cartoons out for “ethnic and racial prejudices.”

“While these cartoons do not represent today’s society, they are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed,” the statement reads.

At times, Disney has disavowed a movie entirely.

“Song of the South,” from 1946, which won an Oscar for the song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” was never released for home video and hasn’t been shown theatrically for decades, due to its racist representation of the plantation worker Uncle Remus and other characters. It isn’t included in Disney Plus, either.

Disney and Warner Bros. did not respond to requests for comment.

Sonny Skyhawk, an actor and producer who created the group American Indians in Film and Television, found the two-sentence disclaimer lacking.

What would serve minority groups better than any disclaimer is simply offering them opportunities to tell their own stories on a platform like Disney Plus, Skyhawk said. He said that when he talks to young Indian kids, “the biggest negative is they don’t see themselves represented in America.”

Mae Anderson, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ballenas students help keep essential community services going

Club donates $1,000 to SOS Grateful Hearts campaign

Rebound recovery program helps more than 50 PQB businesses remain open

Nearly $90K in aid received through Oceanside Initiatives plan

Parksville-area family receives anonymous letters complaining children are being too loud

Letter said the noise of kids playing in the backyard is ‘unbearable’

PQBeat Podcast: Beloved Parksville volunteer Joan LeMoine

Discussion includes childhood memories, receiving the key to the city and more

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Cooler days help crews fighting fire on mountainside southwest of Nanaimo

Firefighters making progress, but it’s ‘slow-going,’ says B.C. Wildfire Service

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

Most Read