We still have a long way to go when it comes to racism and representations in movies and TV shows, but we can at least agree we have made some progress compared to some of the Disney animated classics like “Dumbo,” “Lady and the Tramp” or “The Aristocats.” All of those movies can be seen on the Disney+ streaming service, but they include a disclaimer about the cultural context of certain scenes that can be considered pretty racist by today’s standards (or any standards, really).
Mashable writes that the day Disney+ launched, some users reported seeing disclaimers in certain movie’s details section that warned “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.” Movies like the ones named above include depictions like a jive-talking crow named Jim Crow in “Dumbo,” the offensive parody of East Asian accents via Siamese cats in both “The Aristocats” and “Lady and the Tramp” and the racist depictions of Native Americans in “Peter Pan.”
It is a step in the right direction that Disney is still presenting these classic films, but recognizing the mistakes that were made and the offensive depictions they included. But some users thought the language of the disclaimer wasn’t enough, as it wasn’t taking enough responsibility for the company’s part in distributing these depictions. The disclaimer brings to mind the warning Warner Bros. put on iconic “Tom and Jerry” cartoons explaining that “The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”
That last bit is particularly interesting considering that Disney+ does not include the controversial Disney film “Song of the South,” the 1946 film best known for its problematic portrayal of former slaves following the Civil War. Its lack of inclusion is subject of debate, but the fact that Disney isn’t acknowledging the film, or its part in the making of the racist depictions in the films (not to say of the disclaimer not being that prominent) should spark a conversation about what studios do to preserve an image of themselves that maybe doesn’t exist. In the meantime, enjoy your classic animated movies, but do know that they contain problematic elements that were commonplace at the time.