In yet another act of embarrassment for the House of the Mouse, Disney+ has seen fit to add content advisories to eighteen episodes of the classic kid’s show The Muppet Show.
“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures,” the advisory reads. “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.”
The much beloved late 1970s children show was recently added in its entirety to Disney+’s streaming service on February 19th.
The decision seems to have been purposely made to undercut perceived “out of date” elements of the show. As was reported by the LA times:
“Each episode bears the 12-second disclaimer for a different reason, from Cash’s appearance singing in front of a Confederate flag to negative depictions of Native Americans, Middle Easterners and people from other cultures.”
This read is bizarre in light of the otherwise whimsical and welcoming atmosphere of the Muppets themselves. Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, was a liberal on civil rights and equality issues. Ironic then that such an otherwise diverse and friendly children’s show would be scrutinized…
Not everyone has condemned the decision by Disney+. Others defended the decision to “contextualize” distasteful content without editing it or removing it entirely for the service.
Quartz made this argument in reference to the episode concerning Johnny Cash’s cameo where he performs in front of a Confederate Flag:
“Now that the Confederate flag is widely understood to be associated with white supremacy, it would be strange for Disney to not address its appearance in a Muppets sketch. Having no disclaimer prior to that episode would be endorsement by omission. You don’t need to cancel the entirety of The Muppet Show to call attention to that, or to anything else civil society has come to reject in the decades since the show first aired.”
This isn’t entirely true though. Disney removed two episodes from the final season because the guest actors in the episode have since garnered negative attention.
“…two episodes from the final season are left out entirely – one featured Chris Langham, who was a writer on the show and stepped in to host after a celebrity guest pulled out. The actor, who went on to star in Armando Iannucci’s The Thick Of It, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2007 for downloading indecent videos of children from the internet.”BBC
Disney has famously cut episodes of classic television shows once the actors or actresses involved have become verboten. The Simpsons premiered on Disney+ at launch without Season 3: Episode 1: Stark Raving Dad because the episode guest starred Michael Jackson.
Regardless if this technically qualifies as cancel culture or not, it’s not a great look for a company already publicly reeling from the negative fan reaction and mass cancellations surrounding the Gina Carano controversy.