The Disney group has just made an important decision regarding the strategy for the films in their Disney + catalog, which is accused of conveying racist stereotypes.
A new effective strategy?
For some months now, the question of the representation of minorities (ethnic, sexual or religious) in the cinema and in series has taken on more and more space in the public debate. We recall that HBO Max decided to pull Gone with the Wind, which won 10 Academy Awards, from its catalog but was accused of conveying a degrading image of African Americans. On June 22nd, 2020, you were informed that the English broadcaster Sky Atlantic had decided to contextualize several films classified as objectionable, including aliens from James Cameron or Dumbo from the Disney studio.
Between censorship and contextualization, we wondered what strategy the studio with the big ears would pursue. Especially since Disney, who hangs out in a conservative studio, has been trying to remedy this for several years, even if it annoys some viewers who accuse the group of surfing the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements with the sole aim of handling their communication . In addition, Disney has already decided not to include Melody from the South, a controversial film since its release in 1946, from its Disney + platform’s catalog.
However, it appears that Disney has decided to follow in Sky Atlantic’s footsteps and prefer contextualization to censorship. For example, several films in the Disney + catalog are now preceded by a warning card that shows:
This program includes negative portrayals and / or abuse of people or cultures. Those stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Instead of removing this content, we want to identify its harmful effects, learn from it, and have conversations so that together we can create a broader future.
Disney is committed to creating stories with inspiring and ambitious themes that reflect the wealth of human experiences around the world.
Several films are affected. Among them: Dumbo, Peter Pan, The Aristocats, Beauty and the Vagrant, The Robinsons of the South Seas, Aladdin and his sequels.
In addition, at the end of each warning card, Disney refers to a website where the recontextualization of its feature films can be examined: www.disney.com/storiesmatter! For example:
The film portrays Indians in a stereotypical way that does not reflect the diversity of the First Nations or their cultural traditions. He shows them how to speak an incomprehensible language and repeatedly refers to them as “Redskins,” which is an offensive term. Peter and the Lost Boys dance, wear headdresses and other exaggerated clichés that represent a form of ridicule and appropriation of the culture and image of the indigenous nations.
We can, of course, understand the interest Disney has in this strategy of re-contextualizing its objectionable feature films rather than censoring them. In addition to the fact that a large part of the group’s economic strategy is based on the nostalgia sparked by their great animation classics at the heart of their derivative products and theme parks, Disney has run an extensive entertainment program since 2010. Adaptation of his own classics. And among the animated films that are considered objectionable, some have been adapted or are about to be adapted for live action. In 2019 alone, three of them were adapted: Tim Burton’s Dumbo, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin and Charlie Beans Lady and the Tramp, the latter of which was even one of the first exclusive content on the Disney + platform. (Additionally, we recall that Peter Pan will soon also be the subject of a live-action adaptation, which is already controversial.) At the group’s image level, it wouldn’t make sense Disney is withdrawing certain films from its Disney + catalog and adjusts them immediately.
In any case, we can only be happy that Disney chose contextualization rather than censorship. We remember the controversy that broke out when Disney + awkwardly censored Daryl Hannah’s buttocks in Splash.