In the UK, a new version of Flash Gordon has a disclaimer about “discriminatory stereotypes”. The warning was added by the British Film Classification Council (BBFC) – primarily because of the main villain Ming the Ruthless. The character, who is portrayed as a native of East Asia, was played by the Swede Max von Sydow.
“Ming the Merciless is portrayed as an East Asian character because of his hair and makeup but is played by a Swedish actor in the film. He is played by Max von Sydow, says a senior BBFC employee. “I don’t think this could have happened if it was a modern project, and we understand that viewers may find such a character dubious, if not downright offensive.”
“Ming, of course, comes from 1930s Flash Gordon comics and TV series, and let’s just say the attitude towards the acceptability of discriminatory racial stereotypes has changed significantly since then, and this is certainly correct,” added the council representative.
In addition, the BBFC raised the Flash Gordon’s age rating due to violence and profanity.
Many studios have recently started adding warnings about negative stereotypes and outdated norms to older films and series. Similar disclaimers appear before Disney’s Peter Pan, Dumbo, Fantasy and Lady and the Tramp, and Warner temporarily removed Gone With the Wind from HBO Max to add comments about the historical context of the film.