Last year, the House of Mouse made the wise choice to begin including content warnings before many of its older films in the Disney+ back catalog that include particularly racist and offensive scenes, characters, and tropes. Although the admission of past wrongs was welcome, many critics thought the prefaces didn't explain or go far enough for modern viewers. As a result, Disney+ has revamped its content warnings from its initial additions last year with even stronger wording, as well as a link to its new Stories Matter website, which contextualizes and breaks down individually problematic scenes, characters, and imagery from past releases such as The Aristocats, Peter Pan, and Swiss Family Robinson.
Context without cutting corners— While the 12-second preface before these and many other titles cannot be skipped when streaming, the company decided to not cut the scenes in question from the available films. "Rather than removing this content, we see an opportunity to spark conversation and open dialogue on history that affects us all. We also want to acknowledge that some communities have been erased or forgotten altogether, and we're committed to giving voice to their stories as well," reads the site statement.
For example, the Stories Matter context for Dumbo describes the movie's crow characters as paying, "homage to racist minstrel shows, where white performers with blackened faces and tattered clothing imitated and ridiculed enslaved Africans on Southern plantations. The leader of the group in Dumbo is Jim Crow, which shares the name of laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States."
Disney's Stories Matter homepage reads, "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."
Progress of a sort — Modern inclusivity and historical context are vital to a society seeking to reconcile its violent, racist underpinnings, so the new Disney+ additions are welcome expansions from the company's previous content warnings. That said, it's hard to believe the sincerity when the company just laid off 28,000 workers earlier this month, not long after restoring executive salaries. Oh, and then there's the minor detail of it grossly underpaying call center representatives. Two steps forward, one step back, we guess...