Amazon, iTunes add racism warning to 'Tom and Jerry' shorts

Classic Tom and Jerry cartoons are now accompanied by disclaimers on Amazon Prime and iTunes warning viewers of "ethnic and racial prejudices," BBC News and TheWrap report. However, the wording is similar to that accompanying some of the DVD collections, indicating the decision was made by Warner Bros., and not by the two online retailers.

"Tom & Jerry shorts may depict some racial and ethnic prejudices that were once commonplace in American society," the Amazon label reads. "Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While not representing the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed."

The Tom and Jerry shorts debuted in 1940, and like many cartoons of that era, they frequently employed racial stereotypes considered undeniably racist by our standards -- perhaps most notably, the character Mammy Two Shoes and the repeated blackface  gags. The worst scenes are frequently edited out in modern airings, and Mammy Two Shoes' voice was redubbed in the 1990s.

For the release of the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection in 2004, Whoopi Goldberg was recruited to record an introduction explaining why the producers decided not to remove some of the offensive scenes.

The appearance of the disclaimer has drawn criticism, with BBC News turning to sociology professor Frank Furedi, who labeled the move "empty-headed," "false piousness" and a form of censorship that "seems to be sweeping cultural life."

"We're reading history backwards," he said, "judging people in the past by our values."

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