Disney+ is here and it brings with it a ton of classic Disney content spanning the decades. But that also brings with it some potentially problematic content, some of which younger viewers may be discovering for the very first time. This is something Disney is well aware of, as they've included a content warning on many classic titles in the Disney+ library. But is that content warning enough? That's certainly up for debate.
Titles such as the Disney animated classic Dumbo, which was released in 1941, were made available on Disney+ when the service launched in the U.S. earlier this week. At the end of the brief synopsis provided, Disney opted to provide the following warning, given that the movie, as has been pointed out numerous times in the past, contains imagery that is truly troubling when viewed through the modern lens.
"This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions."
Dumbo contains several troubling sequences, such as The Song of the Roustabouts, that are insensitive to African-Americans and have been called out for being racist. Disney+ has added the warning to Peter Pan, some early Mickey Mouse cartoons and a few other classics. There has been a larger debate about movies such as Dumbo, which have a lot of historical significance, yet also contain troubling material. Should classics be altered? Or is it worth preserving those bits of history as they are, flaws and all?
There are no easy answers. Debate has raged on social media once the content warnings were spotted on Disney+. Many feel it's not enough. Some of those people point to Warner Bros., who recently included a similar, though much more expansive warning in front of some of its classic cartoons, such as certain Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry segments. The Warner Bros. warning reads as follows.
"The cartoons you are about to see may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While not representing the Warner Bros. view of today's society, these shorts are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."
That is a bit more, to say the least, significant. Disney opted not to provide such an extensive warning, nor did they take a clear stance as Warner Bros. did. Disney+ features the warning on a wide number of classic titles, even ones that may not seem to have offensive or outdated cultural content. It seems Disney is choosing to cover their bases in this respect.
Disney has been making animated features dating all the way back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. That represents more than eight decades worth of filmmaking. From a cultural standpoint, a whole lot has changed over those decades. It's certainly important for Disney to acknowledge its past as it looks toward the future. How best to do that is a difficult thing to answer. Disney+ is now available in the U.S.
some real discordance between "fall in love with this classic" that also "has outdated cultural depictions"— casey morell (@csymrl) November 12, 2019
“may contain outdated cultural depictions” THERE’S A CROW NAMED JIM CROW— 🎀💒🎀 @ wont change my dn til siegfried is in ssb (@twilightsthorn) November 13, 2019
"It may contain outdated cultural depictions" is some weak sauce copy, Disney. Very glad they're not editing this material, but 'outdated' implies it was once fine and culture just moved on. And that's not true. This material was vigorously protested and debated contemporaneously https://t.co/nNwg6eZqho— Jonathan Lack (@JonathanLack) November 12, 2019
The new Disney streaming service has a content warning for some of its older, racist movies and tv shows. Including Peter Pan. I guess this is a start? https://t.co/Ch2xFqcNqu— Emily C. Van Alst (@emilyvanawesome) November 13, 2019
THIS is why Disney put out that warning about old content telling y’all not to cancel them 🥴😭 pic.twitter.com/80XeF6NG2E— Alexis J (@GetItLexxx) November 13, 2019