Many know The Aristocats for its quotable kitties with lines like, “Ladies do not start fights — but they can finish them!” The 1970 animated Disney film was an anthem for young girls, showing us we could speak up and be plucky while still being feminine. In more ways than one, The Aristocats was a feminist example for its time period, so why is it canceled now?
Since receiving criticism for its racist stereotypes and depictions in many of its older films, Disney implemented a warning at the beginning of these films back in October of 2020. But as of January 2021, The Aristocats, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, and Swiss Family Robinson had been pulled from the Kids Profiles on its platform for kids younger than seven, while keeping the warning in place for adults.
Though the pull happened some time ago, it appears that recently right-leaning news outlets began sharing the news, drawing new ire toward Disney for "cancel culture." So, what exactly is it about The Aristocats that caused a cancellation?
Even though ‘The Aristocats’ is canceled, that doesn’t mean we can’t still watch it.
The Aristocats will still be available on Disney+, but only for profiles for viewers over the age of seven. Additionally, parents can choose to alter the settings for Kids Profiles to bypass certain restrictions, such as restrictions put in place for cultural insensitivity and racial stereotyping.
However, before The Aristocats or any of the other films play, there will be an advisory that says, “This program includes negative depictions and / or mistreatment of people or cultures. 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 is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.”
While some people were upset at first that Disney is effectively “canceling” some of our favorite movies, others on Twitter have come to Disney’s defense. Disney acknowledges on their Stories Matter initiative, “We can't change the past, but we can acknowledge it, learn from it and move forward together to create a tomorrow that today can only dream of.”
‘The Aristocats’ is canceled because of a racist depiction of one of the alley cats.
Although some of us may have forgotten, others find the character, Shun Gon, one of the most memorable parts of The Aristocats. On Shun Gon’s Wiki page, people are even quoting his racist line, showing just how pervasive and insensitive these stereotypes are.
Here’s what Disney’s Stories Matter team has to say about him: “The cat is depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth. He sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks. This portrayal reinforces the 'perpetual foreigner' stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture such as 'Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong.'"
Not only is Shun Gon’s depiction in the film racist, but the history behind him is no better. Some believe his character, a Siamese cat, is actually based on the Siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp, a movie from 15 years earlier with less offensive (but still not great) depictions of East Asian people.
In addition, Disney movies were often transformed into comic books to boost revenue. In the comic book version of The Aristocats, which came out in 1971, Shun Gon’s name became “Chino,” which is offensive name-calling for someone of Chinese descent, even though Shun Gon is supposed to be Siamese.