Disney Adds Warning Labels to ‘The Muppets Show’ Episodes

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Photo By BBC News

Disney+ added a content warning to 18 episodes of The Muppet Show. Photo courtesy of BBC News

Disney+ recently issued additional content warnings for negative depictions of cultures and people in certain films. Although the company has not specifically detailed the derogatory content, films with noticeably poor imagery and/or mistreatment of individuals or communities now have an on-screen video advisory. 

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,” A Disney+ disclaimer stated.  

The studio has chosen to acknowledge and contextualize culturally offensive material rather than cutting it. Several films, including Lady and the Tramp, Jungle Book, Aristocats, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and Swiss Family Robinson now have the message displayed before the film starts. 

Disney enterprise made the executive decision to stream the classic show, The Muppet Show, that ran from 1976 to 1981, featuring some of the biggest stars of the time in guest host positions, such as Steve Martin, Johnny Cash, Peter Sellers, Debbie Harry, Spike Milligan, Kenny Rogers, Marty Feldman, and Joan Baez even though it has been under public scrutiny for inappropriate and offensive content. 

In season five, Johnny Cash performed while standing in front of a Confederate flag, which has a longstanding association with white supremacy. As well  in season three, Spike Milligan stars in a variety of parodic national costumes as part of a rendition of It’s a Small World After All, such as a Chinese man with a long braid and exaggerated front teeth.

External advisors were retained to evaluate the content, and the organization decided to consider and contextualize offensive material when introducing classic programs and films to a modern demographic.

Naturally, this decision stirred controversy on the internet. Fox News and other prominent conservative media figures screamed “cancel culture”, accusing Disney and others of attempting to erase the comedic puppet characters and their history as part of the Disney franchise.

Given Disney’s extensive catalog of older shows and films, it faces a greater challenge than others in reconciling its dubious material. Other businesses, however, have followed suit. Some films, such as Gone with the Wind and Blazing Saddles had disclaimers added by WarnerMedia’s HBO Max. The movies themselves remained unaltered.

Disney has a history of writing friendly material and creative stories for fans no matter the ethnicity and religion. They express their commitment to creating stories with both inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe. 

Not removing shows and instead adding disclaimers, shows the complete opposite of the “cancel culture” trend. Though, it can be argued that Disney is using excuses to continue to stream shows and movies with inexcusable content as a tribute to movements such as Black Lives Matter and others that are making people racially aware.  

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