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For Hollywood Streaming Giants, Archival Content Is A Huge Consumer Draw. But How Are They Dealing With Past Problematic Films?




Al Jolson (1886 - 1950) the stage name of Asa Yoelson the Jewish-American singer and entertainer on set during the filming of the first talking movie, 'The Jazz Singer'.
Al Jolson (1886 - 1950) the stage name of Asa Yoelson the Jewish-American singer and entertainer on set during the filming of the first talking movie, 'The Jazz Singer'.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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For major Hollywood studios launching streaming services, film archives are a lucrative and nostalgic selling point— but they are also home to films with racist, homophobic and other unsavory elements that viewers don’t want to consume.

So how is Hollywood addressing problematic film and television assets? Disney has gathered an advisory council of interest groups, including the African American Film Critics Association and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, to watch and discuss stereotypical content and offer their ideas for how to proceed. Some shows wind up with disclaimers cautioning users about offensive content, and in other instances original content is being generated to contextualize what viewers might see in streaming service catalogues. Although streamers may use original content to draw new viewers, it’s the archival content that keeps them. On Disney + in 2020, almost 80% of demand was for licensed library content over originals; on HBO Max, that number is closer to 90%. In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, HBO Max scrambled to address criticisms of “Gone With The Wind,” an American classic which romanticizes slavery and perpetuates racist stereotypes. The streaming service initially removed the film after a Los Angeles Times op-ed by screenwriter John Ridley; HBO Max later reinstated the title with a four-minute introduction that framed the movie as one that “denies the horrors of slavery.”

Today on AirTalk, we’re discussing Hollywood’s rearview appraisal of problematic film and television shows. How would you like to see streaming acknowledge the issues in their catalogues? Comment below or give us a call at 866-893-5722.

Guests:

Rebecca Keegan, reporter at The Hollywood Reporter and author of the recent piece “Racist, Sexist … Classic? How Hollywood Is Dealing With Its Problematic Content”; she tweets @ThatRebecca

Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association who sits on Disney's advisory council; he tweets @gilrobertson