Watch: Song of the South

I said I’d been through a time of happy transitions. This includes the ‘love and relationships’ category of my life. The new boyfriend, told me that I should expect a surprise in the mail. He said it was something we could both watch.

I’ve never in my life seen Song of the South. All I could ever say to reference the movie is that its locked in the Disney vault forever. And maybe I can even sing Zip-a-dee-doo-da for you while showing all my teeth the entire time. Today I had an opportunity to finally watch the film. In the words of Remus, “Bless My Heart.” It’s not a favorite, now that I’ve seen it. It is definitely worth bringing up in those Hollywood-is-racist-(or is it?) type conversations. Here’s what I found on Snopes.com:

Song of the South consists of animated sequences featuring Uncle Remus characters such as Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear, framed by live-action portions in which Uncle Remus (portrayed by actor James Baskett, who won a special Oscar for his efforts) tells the stories to a little white boy upset over his parents’ impending divorce. Although some Blacks have always been uneasy about the minstrel tradition of the Uncle Remus stories, the major objections to Song of the South had to do with the live action portions. The film has been criticized both for “making slavery appear pleasant” and “pretending slavery didn’t exist”, even though the film (like Harris’ original collection of stories) is set after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery…

The NAACP acknowledged “the remarkable artistic merit” of the film when it was first released, but decried “the impression it gives of an idyllic master-slave relationship”. Disney re-released the film in 1956, but then kept it out of circulation all throughout the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s. In 1970 Disney announced in Variety that Song of the South had been “permanently” retired, but the studio eventually changed its mind and re-released the film in 1972, 1981, and again in 1986 for a fortieth anniversary celebration. Although the film has only been released to the home video market in various European and Asian countries, Disney’s reluctance to market it in the USA is not a reaction to an alleged threat by the NAACP to boycott Disney products. The NAACP fielded objections to Song of the South when it premiered, but it has no current position on the movie. Perhaps lost in all the controversy over the film is the fact that James Baskett, a black man, was the very first live actor ever hired by Disney. Allegedly, though, Baskett was unable to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta because no hotel would give him a room. (Read more: Snopes.com)

As the boyfriend states, “it was good, but it was coonery.” You gotta watch it and form your own opinions. No shame involved. Happy reading, y’all.

Advertisements

One thought on “Watch: Song of the South

  1. “making slavery appear pleasant” and “pretending slavery didn’t exist”

    That’s rich. I wonder if the same person uttered both of those phrases.

    I really don’t understand how this is “coonery.” Is it because Uncle Remus is singing and smiling? Is every black person from that era supposed to be perpetually pissed off and never able to appreciate a nice day – or even a day that less oppressive than the previous? Are all days just equally fucked up therefore no appreciation – even if relative – is allowed? Are black people supposed to not sing in movies even though that was what pretty much every person in these kind of movies did?

    Is it because Br’er Rabbit is speaking African-American Vernacular English? How exactly would he talk and not sound racist? Like a redneck? Irishman? Cockney Brit? New England Tax Attorney?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s