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Michael Swartz / Nov. 15, 2019

Rewriting Disney's 'Woke' Wrongs

Disney+ includes warnings before older movies about "outdated cultural depictions."

It’s still sort of a big deal when Disney re-releases one of its classic animated movies. In years past, the parents of the six-year-olds who loved “Frozen” swooned over “The Lion King,” while their own parents were likely taken in by “The Jungle Book.” Yet in introducing its new streaming service, the Disney conglomerate has caved to political correctness by running a disclaimer at the beginning of many of its classic movies and warning us that they may contain “outdated cultural depictions.”

But some people are never satisfied. Those who complain that “The Lion King” had “racist hyenas” and “The Jungle Book” was full of its own racial coding don’t think Disney went far enough. Naturally, they’ve taken to Twitter and are comparing Disney’s disclaimer to a stronger one issued by Warner Brothers for its “Looney Tunes” cartoons a few years ago — a warning that the animated depictions were “wrong then and they are wrong today.”

On the surface, it’s surprising just how reasonable Disney’s disclaimer is given how quickly it’s running to placate the Rainbow Mafia with scenes of same-sex kisses and kids “coming out” on the Disney Channel. But the movie studio that brought us Mickey Mouse has already sanitized a significant portion of its history, editing out a character in “Fantasia” and essentially forever erasing the “Song of the South,” with only its classic “Zippity-Do-Dah” tune still in circulation. Disney apparently believes these parts of its past are just too offensive for the sensibilities of today’s audiences. We suppose the company is right.

One thing Disney doesn’t reveal with its disclaimer, though, is just which “outdated cultural depictions” are the trigger within these movies. In that respect, it can be argued (and eventually believed) that the entire movie is an “outdated cultural depiction.” So what happens when the hero is a white, straight male who gets the girl in the end? Is that outdated because today’s heroine must be a woman of color with a same-sex partner?

The other problem is that Disney’s disclaimer implies that the cultural norms of our past — which included things like the nuclear family, faith in our Creator, and a strong work ethic — are now somehow suspect. And in a society that’s theoretically more colorblind than ever, some of these “outdated cultural depictions” might well pass unnoticed by younger audiences that were never exposed to those stereotypes.

Perhaps we should hang onto all those old Disney titles on VHS, because It’s a Woke World, After All.

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