Walt Disney must be spinning in his cryogenic tank. In life he was a smart guy who got rich making saccharine kids cartoons. In death, he’s a hated culture war criminal whose legacy is white/male/hetero/cis privilege. (And, though Walt’s not to blame for Miley Cyrus, his brand will forever be tainted by the many pop tarts Disney has inflicted on an unsuspecting public.)
Now, the new streaming TV service that bears his name is adding warnings to the beginning of his old movies “that they might include racist or otherwise offensive elements,” according to Marisa Iati at The Washington Post. Of course, being a Postie, Iati interviewed some “experts” who said the addition of trigger warnings “begins to address the problem but fails to go far enough.”
So if you punch up Dumbo and Peter Pan on Disney+, you’re told they “may contain outdated cultural depictions.” Fine. People have different sensibilities today and companies feel pressure to acknowledge it. (Is the Lucky Charms Leprechaun still on the Saturday morning ads? He triggers the hell out of me.)
But if the House of Mouse really wants credit from the woke, only sackcloth and ashes will cut it, not these “apolitical and passive” warnings “acknowledging society’s cultural dialogue about racism and diversity,” UVA Professor of Media Studies Shilpa Davé told Iati:
‘It really feels like a first step,’ said Michael Baran, a senior partner at the Illinois-based diversity and inclusion consulting firm InQUEST Consulting. ‘I think that they could be so much more forceful in not only what they are saying, in the warning, but also in what they’re doing.’
Baran “would like to see Disney use more explicit language to acknowledge that a film includes biased depictions of a certain racial group and urge viewers to talk about those representations. Disney could include discussion questions online to accompany the movies.”
You know, I bet racial discussion questions are just the sort of thing InQUEST Consulting specialized inL
Some films that reportedly do not contain warning notices, such as Aladdin, should have them added, Baran said, and the warnings should also apply to films with problematic representations of gender and sexuality.
Everything is problematic! It’s a jungle out there, though not the one from The Jungle Book, which, Iati said, had “monkeys [that] portray black people as foolish and criminal.” Maybe its more of a savannah … except “The churlish hyenas in The Lion King, released in 1994, could have represented racial minorities who live on the wrong side of the tracks.” (Nobody tell Whoopi.)
See? That’s why you the kind of expert guidance provided by professional diversity consultants -- like the fine folks at InQUEST.
Disney+ recently screened a live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp that cut the Siamese cats from the original because they were racist to Asians or something. Maybe that’s the way forward for Disney: remake the classics without the objectionable stuff, and have those neutered versions become the standard:
Davé, however, said live-action remakes still evoke the original films and changing the characters cannot fix the original movies’ racism. ‘Instead, why don’t you retell the story from an alternative point of view or create new stories with new people and new animals?’ she said.
And you might want to run that new script by an expert, say, a respected UVA professor....