Children’s media expert reacts to Disney+ adjusting access to some films

Disney+ has added disclaimers to the beginning of select films since October and removed them from Kids Profiles, a spokesperson told NBC15.
Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 10:24 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 10:34 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Disney+ has changed access to certain classics, like “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” which contain “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures,” according to its website.

Users of the Kids Profile are no longer able to access films with a disclaimer related to the depictions. A spokesperson with Disney+ told NBC15, the company has added disclaimers to the beginning of select films since October, when the Stories Matter site launched. The advisory reads, in part:

“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. 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.”

“Disney [Plus] is taking recognition of the content,” AnneMarie McClain, a communication arts doctoral candidate at UW-Madison, said. She researches children, family and race in media. “They’re being honest about what’s in different content.”

AnneMarie McClain is an expert in children's media at UW-Madison.
AnneMarie McClain is an expert in children's media at UW-Madison.(WMTV)

McClain, a parent of two children, said she has had a lot to discuss with her 5 year old. “We recently did show ‘Peter Pan’ to one of our kids, and we had to stop because there was a lot to unpack in that,” she said.

Disney+ explained, “Peter Pan” “portrays Native people in a stereotypical manner that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions.” It continues, saying characters speak in an “unintelligible language” and are referred to as an offensive term. Other examples include “Aristocats,” in which a character is “depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth,” and scenes in “Dumbo,” which “pay homage to racist minstrel shows,”

McClain said for White children, there’s a high chance that seeing racist stereotypes will lead to increased endorsing of stereotypes. But she said children of color may respond differently. “When you can’t fully see yourself holistically and diversely and positively represented in a space— in which the mass media environment is a space—then it limits your perceptions of who you can be, how you see yourself, and your schema for figuring out how to succeed in a place,” she said.

Parent Jaime Riefer has seen examples in her own home, describing an experience with one of her godsons, who is Black. “His movie for the longest time was ‘Sing,’” Riefer said, referring to a 2016 movie released by Universal Pictures. “It bothered him because he’s Black [and] the darkest character in the movie— he’s like, ‘Why are they bad guys?’”

In a similar move last week, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would pull six of the author’s books off the shelves. “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the company preserving Seuss’s legacy said in a statement. It also explained, the decision came after consulting experts, including educators.

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