What in the World—Week of February 22

Disney puts warnings on episodes of The Muppet Show
For years it was “the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational” show on TV, but Disney has also deemed The Muppet Show to be controversial. Its Disney+ streaming service is putting an “Offensive content” warning on 18 episodes of the show according to Variety, saying they feature “stereotypes” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.” The warning reads, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.” Rather than removing the content, Disney said that it wanted to acknowledge its harmful nature, learn from it and spark conversation to “create a more inclusive future together.” The warnings have been applied to episodes hosted by stars such as Steve Martin and Kenny Rogers. They are said to include depictions of Native American, Middle Eastern and Asian people, while a season five episode featured country legend Johnny Cash performing in front of a Confederate flag.

LVMH buys stake in Jay Z’s Champagne brand
Further cementing the symbiotic relationship between hip-hop and premium alcohol, LVMH is acquiring a 50% stake in Jay Z’s upscale Champagne brand Armand de Brignac. According to The Wall Street Journal, LVMH’s spirits division, Moët Hennessy, will try to grow the brand—known for its metallic bottles costing hundreds of dollars apiece—through its local distribution networks, while taking advantage of its “vast resources” within France’s Champagne region. The purchase price was not disclosed. (Although Jay Z did rap in 2018 that Armand de Brignac, known to fans as Ace of Spades, was “worth half a B.”) The deal comes amid flattening sales for Champagne, with weddings and other special events cancelled because of the pandemic. According to the Journal, sales were down about 20% last year.

Metallica performance swapped out on Twitch
Legendary heavy metal band Metallica is being mocked on social media after the Amazon-owned streaming service Twitch replaced the audio from a live performance with generic music to avoid a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) takedown order. According to Mashable, the band was performing during the opening ceremony of Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon 2021 conference, which was being livestreamed on channels including YouTube and Blizzard’s own Twitch channel. But just seconds into the band’s performance of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Twitch replaced the song with pleasantly upbeat royalty free music—variously described as “8bit folk music” and “elevator music”—that stood in stark contrast to the heavy metal grimacing and posturing playing out on screens. Not surprisingly, many fans argued that they much preferred their earlier stuff. Metallica took a firm stance against online music piracy in the early 2000s, so it’s not surprising that some people are taking delight in what they feel is a moment of schadenfreude.

McDonald’s commits to new DEI goals
McDonald’s wants to have an equal number of men and women in leadership roles by 2030, and plans to increase minority representation in its senior ranks from 29% to 35% in the next four years. Executive pay will also be tied to reaching the new targets according to the BBC. The stated objectives come after the iconic fast food company faced complaints about racial discrimination and accusations of “systemic sexual harassment,” and previous CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired for an inappropriate relationship with an employee. Last summer the company committed to new diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and hired a global chief DEI officer. “We recognise these issues weigh heavily on our people and have heard—loud and clear—that diversity, equity and inclusion are priorities for our entire team, from our crews to our senior leaders,” McDonald’s chief executive Chris Kempczinski wrote in a letter to staff. “We’re serious about holding ourselves and our leaders accountable to these foundational commitments.”

Some bad press for Hollywood Foreign Press
A week before the Golden Globes ceremony, the Los Angeles Times has published an exposé on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the awards. While the members list and inner workings of HFPA are a closely guarded secret, the Times reviewed documents about the association and found that while there are a “number of people of colour,” none of the members are Black. The HFPA was widely criticized for not nominating Black-led potential Oscar contenders, although the Netflix show Emily in Paris did surprisingly well. The Times reported that 30 HFPA members were flown to France during production of the show, where they were treated to “a two-night stay at the five-star Peninsula Paris hotel, where rooms currently start at about $1,400 a night, and a news conference and lunch at the Musée des Arts Forains, a private museum filled with amusement rides dating to 1850 where the show was shooting.”

David Brown