Disney recently launched its new streaming service, Disney+, which includes about 500 movies and 7,500 TV episodes. Among the service's extensive library are Disney's older films. After the launch of Disney+, many users noticed that the descriptions of some of these older movies included warnings that they "contain outdated cultural depictions." The films "Peter Pan," "The Aristocats," and "The Lady and the Tramp" are among those that contain this warning.
The warning has generally received a positive response on social media. While these older films are considered classics and are a quintessential element of many people's childhoods, it is still important to acknowledge the faults in these films, especially those are offensive or, in this case, racist. Scenes such as the appearance of the Siamese cats in "The Lady and the Tramp," the Siamese cat playing the piano with chopsticks in "The Aristocats," and the depiction of Native Americans in "Peter Pan" have all been criticized for presenting harmful stereotypes, and these offensive portrayals of people of color needed to be addressed by Disney.
It is especially important that Disney chose to still feature these films on their streaming service in their original form. Rather than editing or removing the particularly offensive scenes, they chose to keep them and attach the warning. Too often in these situations, offensive scenes are simply edited out as if they never existed. When these are scenes and portrayals of minorities that have already been widely viewed and ingrained in the memories of those who have seen them, erasing these instances is counterproductive and only serves to sweep racism and other forms of prejudice under the rug rather than fully acknowledging how harmful they can be. By leaving the scenes as they are, Disney is taking a step towards educating its audiences rather than pretending that these instances of racism never happened.
The offensive portrayals of people of color in some of Disney's films has had a very real impact in the past: as a child, I remember being grouped with the few other Asian-American students at our preschool and being told to sing the Siamese cat song from "The Lady and the Tramp" at our graduation, and I certainly grew up watching "The Lady and the Tramp" and many other Disney classics in school. Seeing Disney acknowledge their own racism in their older films is personally encouraging to me, as someone who has experienced forms of alienation due, in part, to these racist scenes, and there are likely many other people of color who feel the same. Although the addition of these warnings may only seem to be a small step, it certainly signifies how much has changed and, hopefully, how much more progress can be made in the representation of minorities.