Disney+ ups sentiment on racism disclaimer warning, opens dialogue on an ‘inclusive future’

Disney+ ups sentiment on racism disclaimer warning, opens dialogue on an ‘inclusive future’

Disney+ has plussed out with the wording of its updated disclaimer, owning up to past errors that racialized its era-bygone characters — and now, subtly adding a new layer to its warnings to all its ‘negative’ content. 

The streaming platform has rephrased its initial “outdated cultural depictions” warning —  in use since November 2019 with a 12-second, cannot-be-skipped advisory.

The new disclaimer offers a more open, inclusive warning about “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures” in titles such as Dumbo (1941), Peter Pan (1953), The Aristocats (1970), The Jungle Book (1967) and the original Lady and the Tramp (1955).

The disclaimer reads: “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.”

In its admission, Disney commits to creating stories with “inspirational and aspirational themes” reflecting the “rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.”

As promised, hoping to open conversation, Disney also added one final sentiment: “To learn more about how stories have impacted society, please visit www.disney.com/StoriesMatter.”

The site also painstakingly breaks down it’s own negative content by detailing the exact nature of their stereotyping depictions. 

In Aristocats, a feline character serves exaggerated East Asian traits “such as slanted eyes and buck teeth.” He also sings in “poorly accented English” and “plays the piano with chopsticks.”  

“Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong” — lyrics mocking the Chinese language and culture.  

In Dumbo, the infamous musical number with the crows “pays homage to racist minstrel shows” where white performers in tattered clothing and faces painted black, “imitated and ridiculed enslaved Africans on Southern plantations” 

Disney classic, Dumbo’s ‘racist minstrel crows.’
The Song of the Roustabouts:  “When we get our pay, we throw our money all away” — faceless Black workers toil away to offensive lyrics.

In Peter Pan, the film portrays Natives in a radicalised and stereotypical light “that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions.” The term ‘redskins’ is tossed around and the characters speak a blatant gibberish tongue. 

Peter and the Lost Boys engage in an exaggerated dance and don headdresses — “a form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.”

And all of these characters were voiced by white actors.  

Disney has also affirmed that it is working toward inclusivity, hand-in-hand with organisations such as the African American Film Critics Association, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media,  the LGBTQ+ flag-bearer, GLAAD, the ‘Native’ narrative-challenging IllumiNative, the Latino Independent, NALIP, and the disability stigma-fighter, RespectAbility, among others.

“They are supporting our efforts to increase our cultural competency by providing ongoing guidance and thought leadership on critical issues and shifting perceptions,” Disney added.

The revised language of the new disclaimer comes less than one year after its original advisory, which included a much shorter message. 

“This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions,” the first warning reads after each film’s plot description, referring to triggering elements that were racially and culturally insensitive.

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