Disney+ Adds Disclaimer to 'The Muppet Show' Episodes

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday February 22, 2021
Originally published on February 22, 2021

Disney+ Adds Disclaimer to 'The Muppet Show' Episodes
  (Source:Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

"The Muppet Show" is now streaming at Disney+... with the plus, in this case, meaning that 18 of the show's episodes now have something extra: A disclaimer informing viewers of inappropriate content.

The series was produced in England and originally ran in the U.S. on CBS between 1976 - 1981. All five seasons began streaming at Disney+ on Feb. 19. Variety reports that the 18 episodes are now prefaced by a card that warns of "negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.

"These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now," the text on the card says. "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."

Variety noted that the hosts of the episodes in question included Johnny Cash, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Crystal Gayle, Marty Feldman, Debby Harry, Steve Martin, and other big-name stars. While the channel has not explicitly stated why those episodes warranted a disclaimer, Deadline took note that the Johnny Cash episode shows the musician performing with a Confederate flag as a backdrop.

U.K. newspaper The Guardian also pointed out likely reasons for the disclaimers, recalling that "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," the Guardian article added.

The disclaimer isn't limited to reruns of "The Muppet Show." Other decades-old programs also are preceded by the warning. Noted the Guardian:

"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.' "

The Variety article noted that "Disney's Stories Matter initiative outlines the platform's reasoning for adding the labels to its content," with the company's website telling viewers that, "As part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are in the process of reviewing our library and adding advisories to content that includes negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures.

"We also want to acknowledge that some communities have been erased or forgotten altogether, and we're committed to giving voice to their stories as well," the text at the website goes on to say.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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