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'Live PD' canceled; critics now demand changes for 'PAW Patrol' and Disney's Splash Mountain

Nothing is safe from being canceled

Noam Galai/FilmMagic

A&E has canceled "Live PD," the network's highest-rated TV show. The live television program, which followed law enforcement around the country, was pummeled with backlash following the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody.

"This is a critical time in our nation's history, and we have made the decision to cease production on 'Live PD,'" the network said in a statement Wednesday. "Going forward, we will determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them. And with that, we will be meeting with community and civil rights leaders as well as police departments."

Following massive ratings during the show's nearly 300 episodes, "Live PD" had been picked up for 160 additional episodes by A&E in May.

Dan Abrams, who hosted "Live PD" since 2016, tweeted:

Shocked & beyond disappointed about this. To the loyal #LivePDNation please know I, we, did everything we could to fight for you, and for our continuing effort at transparency in policing. I was convinced the show would go on. More to come. I am going to finally go to sleep but I just want to say one more thing to the #LivePDNation. Thank you for making this so much more than a tv show. You created a huge community of kind, caring people with whom I hope to stay in touch with in this next chapter. More tomorrow.

Abrams released a statement on his website Law & Crime:

I am frustrated and sad because I truly believed in the mission of the show to provide transparency in policing. I completely agree with advocates calling for more bodycams on officers and more uniform rules for their use. It seems to me that the antidote to bad policing and officers is transparency and that means more bodycams and more shows like 'Live PD.' It's important to distinguish 'Live PD' from a show like 'Cops' that just presented a highlight reel of crazy moments. 'Live PD' was totally different — following the officers in real time, in their real environments showing the nerves, the adrenaline, the bad, the good, and often the mundane and boring. I will miss it all.

"Live PD" was recently scrutinized over having footage of a 40-year-old man dying after a police chase. Javier Ambler led Texas police on a 22-minute pursuit in Austin on March 28, 2019. Ambler's vehicle crashed, and he was tased four times by Williamson County deputies. Bodycam footage of the incident reportedly has Ambler screaming "save me" and "I can't breathe." Ambler became unresponsive and died.

"Live PD" was on hiatus when the incident happened, and the death was never aired. "Live PD" said it deleted the footage in June. Abrams said the show has a "long standing policy to only keep footage for a few weeks absent a specific legal request to retain it and all of the departments we followed were aware of that policy." He said they delete footage so that law enforcement can't use the video to "prosecute citizens seen on the footage."

A&E Networks, which is owned by Hearst Communications and Disney Media Networks, canceled "Live PD" after weeks of protests against police brutality. The TV show was pressured to be canceled because it dared to show cops in a positive light.

Another docuseries that follows police officers, "Cops," was canceled by the Paramount Network on Tuesday after 32 seasons.

Civil rights advocacy organization Color of Change celebrated Viacom canceling "Cops," and demanded other networks to "cancel similarly harmful shows."

"For more than 30 years, "Cops" has miseducated the public and normalized injustice," Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color Of Change, said. "Crime television encourages the public to accept the norms of over-policing and excessive force and reject reform, while supporting the exact behavior that destroys the lives of Black people. 'Cops' led the way, pushing troubling implications for generations of viewers. Now it's time for other networks to cancel similarly harmful shows. We call on A&E to cancel "Live PD" next. In a moment when everyone wants to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, we must hold these companies accountable to put actions to words with a complete industry overhaul."

But "Cops" and "Live PD" aren't the only TV shows facing criticisms on how they depict police officers. The cartoon "PAW Patrol" has not escaped attacks for portraying cops in a positive manner.

Despite having a target demographic of toddlers and preschool children, the "PAW Patrol" Twitter account posted a message on June 2, that said: "In solidarity of #amplifymelanatedvoices we will be muting our content until June 7th to give access for Black voices to be heard so we can continue to listen and further our learning. #amplifyblackvoices."

The tweet was welcomed by trolls and the rage mob with messages saying,"Abolish Chase," who is the adorable animated German Shepherd character in the show that serves as a police dog, demanding the "PAW Patrol to be defunded," and to "euthanize the police dog." An alleged "anti-fascist" Twitter account responded to the message from the Twitter account of a children's cartoon with the acronym: "ACAB," meaning "All Cops Are Bastards."

The New York Times amplified the calls to prohibit TV shows, including cartoons, from showing police officers in a favorable way.

It's a joke, but it's also not. As the protests against racist police violence enter their third week, the charges are mounting against fictional cops, too. Even big-hearted cartoon police dogs — or maybe especially big-hearted cartoon police dogs — are on notice. The effort to publicize police brutality also means banishing the good-cop archetype, which reigns on both television and in viral videos of the protests themselves. "PAW Patrol" seems harmless enough, and that's the point: The movement rests on understanding that cops do plenty of harm.

So any entertainment property depicting cops in a positive light is now under scrutiny and could be removed from streaming libraries, much like how HBO Max yanked the 1939 film "Gone With the Wind" this week.

TV shows such as "Law and Order," "ChiPs," "The Shield," and "Hill Street Blues" have apparently been put "on notice." You had better get a Blu-ray copy of your favorite law enforcement flicks before the censorship gang attempts a digital book burning of buddy cop movies such as "48 Hours," "Lethal Weapon," "Bad Boys," "Turner & Hooch," "Tango and Cash," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Super Troopers," "Die Hard," "Seven," "21 Jump Street," "Fargo," "The Other Guys," "Ride Along," "Hot Fuzz," and "Police Academy."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) came to the defense of "PAW Patrol" by tweeting: "The left is tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, getting 'PAW Patrol' and 'Live PD' canceled, and pushing to defund the police. This is not progress—it's mob rule and madness."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also called out the "absurdity" of cancel culture targeting cartoons.

Not only are TV shows and cartoon dogs on the hot seat, but so are amusement park rides. A Change.org petition titled, "Re-theme Splash Mountain to Princess and the Frog," which has been signed by over 10,000 people, is asking that Disney rename one of the park's most iconic rides.

The petition points out that Splash Mountain is based on the 1946 movie "Song of the South," a movie critics claim is "steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes." Splash Mountain is featured in Disneyland, Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland.

"There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need. 'Princess and the Frog' is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks," the petition states. "Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much deserved place in the parks. The framing of the ride is such that it could be easily changed to tell the story of Tiana while not compromising too much of the ride/costing a fortune in remodeling for Disney. This change could kill two birds with one stone, remove the offensive stereotypical theming the ride currently has and bring a much needed diversity to the parks. As well as a much bigger merchandising opportunity for 'Princess and the Frog.'"

Earlier this year, Disney executive chairman Bob Iger said "Song of the South" would not appear on the Disney+ streaming service because it is "not appropriate in today's world." The film was previously tagged with a disclaimer warning of "outdated cultural depictions."

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