Disney has a very uncomfortable relationship with some of its older films. It never seems to know what to do with its classic movies that feature racist stereotypes. There would be public outrage if they cut scenes and characters from some of its most beloved films.
But, at the same time, it is pretty uncomfortable sitting through scenes like one in "Peter Pan" where Native Americans sing "What Makes the Red Man Red?"
Plus, all of these films are aimed at children who have yet to develop the ability to understand these scenes are wrong.
The company buried its most racist film, "Song of the South," because no amount of warnings can take the sting out of the fact it's about happy-go-lucky Black plantation workers set around the Civil War.
In 2019, the company placed warnings on some films with racist content on the Disney+ app:
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.'
It also launched the Stories Matter campaign to open up a dialog with "a group of experts from outside our company to advise us as we assess our content and ensure it accurately represents our global audiences."
"We can't change the past, but we can acknowledge it, learn from it and move forward together to create a tomorrow that today can only dream of," the website says.
Disney Advisory – Stories Matter I The Walt Disney Companywww.youtube.com
The Stories Matter campaign was a way of being open with the public about the company's past problems with cultural sensitivity. Now, it's taking a subtler approach to further address the issue.
Recently, without fanfare, the company removed several films from Disney+'s Kids profiles for children seven and younger. The films include, "Peter Pan," "Aristocats," "The Lady and the Tramp," "Dumbo, The Jungle Book," and the live-action "Swiss Family Robinson."
"Peter Pan" features some cringe-inducing Native American stereotypes. "The Aristocats," The Jungle Book," and "Lady and the Tramp" feature xenophobic depictions of Asian people. The crows in "Dumbo" — which are black — act like they were taken straight out of a minstrel show.
According to Disney, "Swiss Family Robinson" features pirates that "are portrayed as a stereotypical foreign menace."
The films are still available to all Disney+ profiles for users eight years and up.
This is surely not the last step Disney will take in its is ongoing attempt to reconcile with its difficult past. But at least it gives parents more control over what their youngest children view on the app.
Why doesn't Disney just provide two different versions of the films? Each film could have a "Classic" version featuring the original film, intact and a "Special Edition" like George Lucas did with "Star Wars" with all of the offensive material removed.
That way parents can choose what they show to their children. The "Classic" versions should continue to have warning signs and at the end of the film, they could add a brief discussion on why certain scenes are offensive so we can all learn from them.
They're Disney, fix it for you.
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