Disney+, Disney’s long-in-the-works attempt to combat Netflix and put their massive trove of intellectual property online for all to enjoy for just $12.99 a month, finally launched a couple of weeks ago.
While I have access to the Disney+ media screener platform, I am not as of now a subscriber to the service, although I imagine I will sign up eventually. Many of those who did subscribe had high marks for the new service, from its huge reach to its inclusion of bizarre back-catalog titles, there were plenty of legit reasons to complain about the early days of Disney+.
Many subscribers had trouble logging on. Various Star Wars and Marvel titles, at least as of now, are missing. There’s nothing R-rated, as Disney is keeping Disney+ kid-friendly and relegating that sort of content to Hulu instead. The first several Simpsons seasons are in the wrong aspect ratio. And let’s not get started on whatever weird thing happened to the Greedo scene in Star Wars: A New Hope.
But there’s one thing about Disney+ that’s occasioned criticism that is, to my mind, ridiculous: It’s inclusion of “outdated cultural depictions” disclaimers on some of its older titles.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, Disney has placed the following disclaimer: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions”, on the original versions of Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan and others – several of which contain fairly egregious racial stereotypes.
The disclaimers typically appear as a single line as part of the movie’s plot description. And such disclaimers have caused many of the usual suspects to lose their damn minds.
Laura Ingraham, on Fox News, took a break from openly flirting with white nationalism in order to rail against the warnings.
“I bet literally no one noticed any of this,” Ingraham said on her show last week, seemingly unaware of decades of scholarship in this very subject. When her guest said, “they didn’t cut this classic films,” Ingraham replied, “not yet!” Then she went on to worry about when “the beleaguered conservative Christian class” might get such warnings of their own.
“I can’t get my head around the idea that the stories that gave me such joy as a child are, to some people, harmful enough to warrant a cautionary warning,” Flowers wrote. “It’s one thing to acknowledge that we made mistakes in the past, and to seek a reckoning with our history. It is quite another to caution people at the outset that the magnificent piece of art that they are about to see is actually riddled with racist, sexist, and “phobic” tropes. This sets the viewer up to actually watch out for those troublesome details and threatens to ruin the viewing experience.”
Nothing is Ruined
Please. The warnings “ruin” nothing. I’m guessing 95% of viewers don’t even read them. And even if they do, the movies are still included! They haven’t been altered or censored. If Disney were making a corporate decision to edit or censor classic movies, against the express wishes of the living filmmakers, that would be a problem. But that’s not what’s happening here.
One film, Song of the South, has been omitted from Disney+ altogether, but that’s in keeping with the company’s decades-long policy of being generally embarrassed of that film. But it has occasioned an outstanding new season of Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcast.
Meanwhile, one viral tweet ripped the warnings for… not going far enough:
The arrival of Disney+ is, overall, a win for film culture. Nearly a century of cinema history is available for less than what a DVD used to cost. The Disney Vault is a thing of the past, and people who have bought the Star Wars trilogy on five different formats over the years will now have the ability (eventually) to call up all of those movies whenever they want.
For all that, having to read a one-sentence disclaimer is a small price to pay. And if you’re so bothered by that, feel free to fast-forward for a few seconds, or blink, and you’ll miss it.