The “cancel culture” debate was renewed online after a five-month-old change by Disney+ to add a disclaimer to some of its older movies resurfaced.
Back in October, the streaming service added a content warning to films such as Dumbo, Peter Pan, The Aristocats, among others, warning the viewer the film may contain racist depictions.
“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures,” the disclaimer says in part, according to Variety. “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.”
When the disclaimer was added, the titles were restricted to adult profiles on the service. Kid profiles were limited to films that are G-rated and shows that are TV-7FV rated. But the change sparked outrage this week among conservatives who believe it is an attempt by Disney to “erase history.” The story was picked up recently by outlets such as the New York Post and Fox News, with headlines falsely claiming the films were removed from the streaming service.
The backlash Disney is facing follows decisions by the estate of Dr. Seuss to discontinue some of his children’s books that “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong” and the decision by Warner Bros. to eliminate the creepy skunk, Pepe Le Pew, from the upcoming Space Jam 2 flick. And don’t forget the Mr. Potato Head brand dropping the “Mr.” from its name.
All of these moves have sparked a broader conversation surrounding “cancel culture” as a movement. In reality, none of these things are actually canceled. The films mentioned above are still available, but with a content warning. According to CNN, the Dr. Seuss books will no longer be printed; however, they will still exist in many libraries with context for their troubling content. Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead will continue to live under the Potato Head brand. According to Deadline, Warner Bros. did not have any plans to include Pepe Le Pew in any upcoming projects.
Instead of removing the content, Disney plans on sparking a conversation surrounding the outdated cultural depictions in its older films.
“Rather than removing this content, we see an opportunity to spark conversation and open dialogue on history that affects us all,” the company says on its Stories Matter initiative page. “We can’t change the past, but we can acknowledge it, learn from it, and move forward together to create a tomorrow that today can only dream of.”