VIDEO: Disney Plus adds disclaimer about racist stereotypes

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 It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”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

The Cowichan Valley Arts Council is offering courses in drawing May through August 2021. (Submitted)
A&E column: Art is everywhere in the Cowichan Valley

What’s going in the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies, a tool that chairman Aaron Stone says will improve communications. (File photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

FILE PHOTO
Editorial: Time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in

They’re just not quite sure they want to get a vaccine — yet

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

Most Read