Hindsight is 20/20. But we should still warn people about the times our vision was obscured.
Movies of the past can be vast wonderlands of exciting stories and beautiful visuals, but when it comes to sensitive depictions of race and other cultures, they usually fall short. This goes for animated movies along with live-action.
When Disney+ opened its catalog, a lot of younger viewers were startled by some of the depictions of other races in their older movies. Films like The Aristocats, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and Swiss Family Robinson are ones that Disney now says feature “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.”
Here's the official disclaimer viewers might see:
“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. 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. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe. To learn more about how stories have impacted society, please visit www.disney.com/StoriesMatter.”
Aside from that generic statement, Disney also goes into detail about exactly what was wrong.
For instance, this is from The Aristocats: “The cat is depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth. He sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks. This portrayal reinforces the ‘perpetual foreigner’ stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture such as 'Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong.'"
We've seen these kinds of disclaimers run before movies like Gone with the Wind, and I think they're going to be important moving forward. We can't lose Hollywood history. We need these films for research and to preserve the catalog of what makes us who we are. But as new people find them, especially impressionable young people, we need to provide context and let them know where mistakes were made.
Have you seen one of these disclaimers on Disney+? Let me know what you think in the comments.