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Disney+ has removed classic titles such as Dumbo, The Aristocats, and Peter Pan from its children’s catalog on the grounds that they include racist stereotypes.
These films will no longer be available for the under-7 category and will now be found only in the Disney+ adult catalog, with prominent text at the beginning of each film warning that “this program includes negative portrayals and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.”
According to Disney, Dumbo ridicules black slaves on southern plantations. Specifically, the scene with some crows, which would come to represent exploited African-Americans. For example, in one of the songs in the film, The Song of the Roustabouts, the black workers sing “when we get paid, we throw all the money away.”
Peter Pan, according to mouse company officials, commits the sin of depicting Native Americans as a tribe and calls them “redskins.” In addition, Peter Pan and his friends dress up as Indians and dance with them “in an exaggerated way,” which is considered by Disney as cultural appropriation.
The Aristocats features a feline character, Shun Gon, who is a Siamese cat with almond-shaped eyes and sings with slurred English pronunciation, and uses traditional chopsticks to play the piano instead of eating. In addition, the company says it is wrong for a white actor to perform his acting job to voice an Asian feline character.
A revisionist campaign?
These warnings, changes and self-censorship of older works are not new at Disney. In 2015 they adopted a zero tolerance policy on smoking. Since then they have forbidden characters to be shown smoking in their new productions, unless it is done by villains or is for historical reasons. In films prior to 2015, a small text is now included at the top of the screens that warns of smoking scenes, in addition to those involving violence, drugs, profanity and sex.
In films such as Star Wars: A New Hope and Return of the Jedi we can see these warnings because of brief scenes, such as a parishioner in the Mos Eisley cantina smoking, or Jabba The Hutt taking a puff on a shisha in his palace.
Hypocrisy and ideological blindness
As a private company Disney is within its rights to adopt this type of measures, it’s provoking a certain rejection in part of its audience due to the ironic over-infantilization of its audience.
These paternalistic and progressive revisionist measures, moreover, may become a boomerang effect for the entertainment giant. On the one hand, they acknowledge that in the past -despite their good intentions at the time -they may have been a bad influence on children, but on the other hand, they try to convince us that their well-intentioned actions now are infallible and should not be subject to criticism. Why warn about some things and not others?
For example, Disney recently released a series of animated shorts made by its subsidiary Pixar called SparkShorts. These shorts have emphasized stories about inclusivity. In Out, children are shown a gay character who comes out to his parents after swapping his conscience with that of his dog. Kitbull tells the story of a kitten who befriends a pit bull dog. The cat, in a display of lack of prejudice, does not distrust the pit bull, who shows his tolerance and multiculturalism by not eating the cat.
In the current context of the culture of offense in which we live, criticizing these works can mean that you are automatically labeled as a conservative caveman, an enemy of progress and without possible redemption. To consider that Disney may have a political agenda in its films makes you a “conspiracist,”although now Disney itself, by self-censoring its films of the past, is somehow acknowledging that at the time they may have had a political influence on their viewers.
These kinds of warnings, always aligned with the progressive mantras, do nothing more than start an endless spiral of paternalism and content control. If there is one thing the left has demonstrated wherever it has been culturally hegemonic, it is its insatiable appetite when it comes to forcing people to agree with its approaches.
To continue with the example of Star Wars, if now there is a warning in a corner of the screen about smoking, why not occupy the entire screen advertising other potentially sensitive issues for the fragile minds of viewers?
Shouldn’t we warn, perhaps, about things like the attempted mutual patricide between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker; the incestuous kiss between Leia and her twin; the genocide of millions of inhabitants of the planet Alderaan; the massacre of workers subcontracted or even enslaved by the Galactic Empire on the Death Star, twice! The infanticide of young Jedi apprentices; the massacre of Tusken women and children; slavery on Tatooine; the insane gambling addiction of its inhabitants obsessed with pod racing, or the attempted genocide of Grogu (Baby Yoda) by eating the last fertilized eggs of an endangered species?
Perhaps Disney should recognize that any work of art is likely to offend someone and let its filmmakers have enough creative freedom to tell good stories on the one hand and, on the other, let parents exercise the freedom to let their children see the films they deem appropriate and discuss their implications with them.
Ignacio Manuel García Medina, Business Management teacher. Artist and lecturer specialized in Popular Culture for various platforms. Presenter of the program "Pop Libertario" for the Juan de Mariana Institute. Lives in the Canary Islands, Spain // Ignacio M. García Medina es profesor de Gestión de Empresas. Es miembro del Instituto Juan de Mariana y conferenciante especializado en Cultura Popular e ideas de la Libertad.
Social Networks: @ignaciomgm