The Muppet Show: Disney+ adds content warning of negative depictions of cultures – The Guardian

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The Muppets

Studio says it is acknowledging and contextualising culturally offensive material rather than cutting it

Mon 22 Feb 2021 04.18 GMT

Disney+ has added a new disclaimer to old episodes of The Muppet Show, warning of “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures” throughout the series.

The platform began streaming Jim Henson’s family variety show on 19 February but prefaced 18 of its episodes with a content advisory that adds: “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+ has added an on-screen content advisory to films that include “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The message displays prior to several films including Lady and the Tramp, Jungle Book Aristocats, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and Swiss Family Robinson. pic.twitter.com/C9m2wOgQ7i

— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) October 15, 2020

The Muppet Show ran from 1976 and 1981 and was guest hosted by some of the biggest stars of the time.

According to Variety, episodes that now open with the disclaimer includes those hosted by Steve Martin, Johnny Cash, Peter Sellers, Debbie Harry, Spike Milligan, Kenny Rogers, Marty Feldman and Joan Baez.

Disney+ has not detailed the “negative depictions” that necessitated each content warning but, in one episode, from season five in 1980, Johnny Cash performs while standing in front of a Confederate flag, which has a longstanding association with white supremacy.

In another, from season three, Spike Milligan appears in a multitude of caricatured national costumes as part of a performance of It’s a Small World After All, including as a Chinese person with exaggerated front teeth and a long braid.

In a 1978 episode, Peter Sellers appears in a segment titled A Gypsy’s Violin wearing a black headscarf with gilded trimmings, a red vest and a large red satin belt, and singing in a heavy accent lines such as: “Once his love gave him golden earring / And now the ears are turning green.”

A Reddit user has gone through each of the 18 episodes to offer opinion on why the content warning has been added.

Disney+ has applied the same disclaimer to other 20th-century content it has been streaming to contemporary audiences , as part of its “Stories Matter” initiative, which was launched to improve representation in its output.

The company has hired external advisers to assess the content, and has chosen to acknowledge and contextualise offensive material, while bringing classic programs and films to a modern audience. “Rather than removing this content, we see an opportunity to spark conversation and open dialogue on history that affects us all,” the company said.

The same disclaimer now appears at the start of Disney+ streams of Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Dumbo, Peter Pan and Swiss Family Robinson. Yet while the Stories Matter website describes why scenes from The Aristocats, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and Swiss Family Robinson were deemed offensive, no explanations have been provided for the warnings added to The Muppet Show.

Disney+ was approached for comment.

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