When Disney launched their exclusive digital streaming service quite simply known as Disney+, it offered them a platform to put their massive media library, spanning film and television across the better part of a century, up for subscription access. While being able to see classics of live-action and animation from a major studio (and all other production labels now under its umbrella) is a major plus, viewers with contemporary sensibilities might be put off with some of the characterization and elements from these oldies. For that reason, the House of Mouse has seen fit to include pre-program disclaimers to some of their older content, like Jim Henson’s “The Muppet Show.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, content disclaimers have been added on some Disney+ streaming offerings such as classic 1976-81 funny variety program “The Muppet Show” to alert viewers that there are some discredited stereotypes and depictions featured in it from the past that might be uncomfortable for present-day audiences.
“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” so goes such a disclaimer that is shown before the start of “The Muppet Show.” The warning further exclaims that Disney is opting not to remove such content entirely, but will keep them on in order to have viewers see discredited notions and therefore be aware of how much harm they did before people eventually knew better. Such a course of action, Disney+ hopes, would make the audience talk about the old stereotypes and hopefully “lead to a more inclusive future.”
Among the entertainment fare shown in “The Muppet Show,” which parodied retro variety shows and lampooned numerous items in pop culture, are hot-topic depictions such as stereotyped cultural characterizations. While Disney has been careful not to be specific, observers can see the warning referring to Native Americans (then called “American Indians”) and Middle Eastern depictions. No less than 18 episodes of the classic show have the above disclaimer added on before the program proper, spread through the series’ five seasons. Other Disney+ content with the advisory include animated movies of the Disney canon like “Dumbo” (treatment of circus animals), “Peter Pan” (again, Native Americans) and “Aristocats,” to name a few.
Most of “The Muppet Show” has been available for streaming on Disney+ since last Friday, February 19. The disclaimers put on it and other streaming content were part of Disney’s new “Stories Matter” initiative, wherein it is reviewing its digital library in order to determine which media could use such an advisory at its start.
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