Will The Selection Of Films On Disney+ Include Its Racist Past?

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April 12th 2019

Disney+ has wowed everyone with their thorough slate of programming, such as MCU spinoff series WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Loki series, and a "What if" animated series that gives alternative views of Marvel's most famous storylines. There will also be Star Wars original series like The Mandalorian, tons of original films such as their live-action Lady and the Tramp as well as Disney's library of nostalgic Disney Channel television. Coupled with its low price of $6.99 a month, Disney+ will give fans everything they want for cheap.

But the coming of Disney+ means the end of the Disney Vault, the method by which Disney would re-release their older films in limited runs. With the Disney Vault now becoming incorporated by Disney+, what does that mean for Disney's more problematic films, like Dumbo and Song of the South?

Disney head Robert Iger has said previously that the "entire Disney motion picture library" will soon become part of the streaming service.

"The service, which I mentioned earlier is going to launch later in the year, is going to combine what we call library product, movies, and television, with a lot of original product as well, movies and television," he said, according to TechCrunch. "And at some point fairly soon after launch it will house the entire Disney motion picture library, so the movies that you speak of that traditionally have been kept in a vault and brought out basically every few years will be on the service. And then of course, we're producing a number of original movies and original television shows as well that will be Disney-branded."

The question that remains is what exactly is in the Vault? From some cursory research, there are conflicting reports. The Vault does include Dumbo, so this means we could see those racist crows on demand come November, the month when Disney+ is set to come out. TechCrunch states that Song of the South, which has been described as depicting a master-slave relationship, isn't in the Vault.

Shadow And Act has reached out to Disney for comment on if titles such as Dumbo, Song of the South and Fantasia will be put on the streaming service. Though PocahontasAladdin and The Jungle Book probably will be available, even though they've also been criticized as racist.

Pocahontas, for starters, is a regurgitation of the myth created by John Smith based on his interactions with the Powhatan tribe and the chief's daughter, Mataoka, who was a child at the time, not a grown woman. The myth is also the origin of the "Indian Princess" stereotype, which perpetuates a flawed understanding of Native American people and cultures through the gaze of Eurocentrism.

Aladdin has been blasted for using Middle Eastern stereotypes, such as in Jafar's character design, which depicts him a darker and more Asiatic than characters like Aladdin and the Sultan, who are much more Eurocentric and lighter-skinned in design. It can be argued that Princess Jasmine also stems from stereotypes of Middle Eastern women; instead of being depicted in more traditional wear, she is constantly wearing what is essentially a belly dancer's costume, which puts more emphasis on Eurocentric sexual objectification rather than accuracy in costuming.

The Jungle Book's problems stem from the racist underpinnings baked into Rudyard Kipling's Victorian-era book. The story is rife with Imperialist thought about India and excuses Britain's invasion of the continent as part of Britain's might. The film itself also fails to showcase its Indian characters with complete agency, such as the young Indian girl Mowgli leaves the jungle for. This character is essentially a rehashing of the problematic Native American princess in Peter Pan, Tiger Lily--they're only there for objectification, made even more icky by the fact that they are children being cast in a sexualized light.

At the time of publishing, we have not heard back.

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by Monique Jones on April 12th 2019
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