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Old November 7 2012, 06:05 AM   #1
scotpens
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What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

I finally had a chance to see Song of the South in its entirety on YouTube. As you probably know, this 1946 film has never had an official DVD release in the U.S., though it's widely available in various video formats in other countries, on the internet, and in pirate versions (with Disney taking no legal action).



Even when first released, the picture was the subject of controversy -- much of which was due to the misconception that the live-action story took place in the antebellum period and that the black characters were slaves.

So . . . what's all the fuss about? For the life of me, I can't find anything in this charming, delightful film that could be construed as racist or offensive. Am I missing something here?
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Old November 7 2012, 06:28 AM   #2
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?



Seriously, I don't know what the big deal is.

I think it's the fact that it might show slavery as positive in any way. Some more offended people might say the movie glorified the picture of slavery.

Disney has stated that the film takes place after slavery has ended though.
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Old November 7 2012, 06:51 AM   #3
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

I think it's been released in Canada, and even had a theatrical re-release at one point, because I remember seeing it at the theatre when I was younger. I found it charming as well.
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Old November 7 2012, 08:51 AM   #4
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

Song of the South is a very charming and heartwarming film, with a few really good songs and some typical brilliant early Disney animation. Some of the live action parts are meh.....but overall I like the film.

I personally don't find the film offensive at all. Uncle Remus is the most intelligent character in the film, and his relationship with Johnny (as well as Johnny's relationship with a black boy his own age) actually promote friendship and understanding between the races.

You can argue the film doesn't show the realities of the post civil war south, but then Mary Poppins doesn't really show how terrible being a chimney sweep in London would have been either.

I find myself humming Zip-a-Doo-Dah and the Song of the South theme now and again, both are great Disney tunes.

As a sidebar on Disney films with racial overtones, I LOVE, I mean LOOOVE, the crows is Dumbo. They are fantastic. It hurts me whenever they are attacked.
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Old November 7 2012, 01:48 PM   #5
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

I too saw it in a theatre as a child and loved it. Somehow I knew it was post civil war, but I found it charming and warm hearted. Dearly wish I had a copy. Will try to You tube it, but my net provider can get wonky with long videos.
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Old November 7 2012, 02:09 PM   #6
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

I had it on VHS as a kid and remember liking it (particularly the Br'er Rabbit and the Zip-a-dee-doo-dah song). But I have no inclination or interest in rewatching it as an adult and if it is indeed offensive intentionally or otherwise then I'm sure Disney's decision is for the best.
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Old November 7 2012, 08:31 PM   #7
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

From what I recall, and I haven't seen the movie for many years, Song of the South is full of offensive racial stereotypes. From the Uncle Remus (Tom) character to "Tar Baby" (or am I putting Tar Baby into the wrong racist Disney movie?).

Reminds me a bit of the style of the racism in Drivin' Miss Daisy.
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Old November 7 2012, 10:55 PM   #8
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

ancientone51 wrote: View Post
. . . Dearly wish I had a copy. Will try to You tube it, but my net provider can get wonky with long videos.
Have you tried downloading and installing Ant Video? I use it to copy online videos, although it doesn't work with everything.

gblews wrote: View Post
From what I recall, and I haven't seen the movie for many years, Song of the South is full of offensive racial stereotypes. From the Uncle Remus (Tom) character to "Tar Baby" (or am I putting Tar Baby into the wrong racist Disney movie?).
In fact, actor James Baskett's Uncle Remus is one of the more positive portrayals of a black character in American cinema up to that time. He's a wise, gentle and patient father figure to a troubled white child. Sure, Remus speaks in "plantation" dialect, but blacks did talk like that.

Through animation, Song of the South brings to life some of the fables based on African-American folklore and collected and set down in writing by Joel Chandler Harris. In one such story, the Tar Baby is a dummy or effigy made of sticky tar in a ploy by B'rer Fox to trap B'rer Rabbit. It's only modern usage that has made "Tar Baby" an offensive epithet.

Perhaps you ought to see the movie again.
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Old November 8 2012, 01:32 AM   #9
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

I think the ride that this movie is based on is awesome. As for the movie itself, I've never seen it because I was told I wasn't allowed. It's stupid really.
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Old November 8 2012, 04:44 AM   #10
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

On a technical level, it's quite a feat, blending animation and live-action.

In terms of racial dynamics, it reflects the then-predominant Dunning School view of Reconstruction and the South. Its offenses are ones primarily of omission -- it's less racist than Gone With the Wind, really. But because it's Disney and intended for children it, perhaps rightly, is held at a different standard.
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Old November 8 2012, 05:32 AM   #11
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

It has some catchy songs. I have a DVD copy that I have watched with my daughter, but it isn't in our rotation.
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Old November 8 2012, 05:44 AM   #12
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

I saw it as a kid. Calling it "racist" is a little like calling "Huck Finn" or even "To Kill a Mockingbird" racist, simply because, in each, some people in the movie are racist in a racist time. If anything, the crows in Dumbo were a lot worse.
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Old November 8 2012, 06:18 AM   #13
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

^^ I love the crows in Dumbo. Those birds are the coolest! There's nothing racially derogatory about them. In fact, they're the nicest characters in the film. They give Dumbo the confidence he needs to fly.

In any case, this is exactly how I'd expect crows to talk and sing if they could.

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Old November 8 2012, 10:09 AM   #14
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

My Son the Vampire wrote: View Post
^^ I love the crows in Dumbo. Those birds are the coolest! There's nothing racially derogatory about them. In fact, they're the nicest characters in the film. They give Dumbo the confidence he needs to fly.

In any case, this is exactly how I'd expect crows to talk and sing if they could.
Yeah, I love them too, and wonder if people who find them offensive have ever listened to black music from that period. If anything, the crows are a tribute. They're not that different from Cab Calloway's awesome and surreal appearances in Fleischer animation.



Music is of course one of the few ways in which blacks could really shine on screen, because black music was very popular with white audiences. I think focusing on the racism sometimes overlooks the talents of those involved. For example, the following scene in A Day at the Races is one of the few big MGM Marx Brothers musical scenes that doesn't grate on me (I love watching the brothers playing instruments and singing themselves, but the big numbers always seemed stuck on). Considering the context of the scene and rest of the film, I'm not even that perturbed by the blackface at the very end that the Marx Brothers use to escape the police.


Last edited by Kirkman1987; November 8 2012 at 12:07 PM.
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Old November 8 2012, 10:28 PM   #15
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Re: What do you think of Disney's "Song of the South"?

My Son the Vampire wrote: View Post
gblews wrote: View Post
From what I recall, and I haven't seen the movie for many years, Song of the South is full of offensive racial stereotypes. From the Uncle Remus (Tom) character to "Tar Baby" (or am I putting Tar Baby into the wrong racist Disney movie?).
In fact, actor James Baskett's Uncle Remus is one of the more positive portrayals of a black character in American cinema up to that time. He's a wise, gentle and patient father figure to a troubled white child. Sure, Remus speaks in "plantation" dialect, but blacks did talk like that.
Because the character is uplifting and a good person does not preclude that character from being a racist stereotype. But it really is a question of balance. Sure there were blacks who spoke the way Uncle Remus did, but there were just as many with the same upbringing,from the same region, as the character, who did not speak that way. But in order to make Uncle Remus more relateble to white audiences, Uncle Remus had to speak that way (I'de bet this was also true of the original written story). If he hadn't -- if the character had been from the south, lived on a plantation but spoke standard English, white audiences would have been like, "huh, negroes don't talk like that". Same for the crows in Dumbo -- not the way they sang, but the way they talked.
Through animation, Song of the South brings to life some of the fables based on African-American folklore
Right, as interpreted by whites at the time.
Tar Baby is a dummy or effigy made of sticky tar in a ploy by B'rer Fox to trap B'rer Rabbit. It's only modern usage that has made "Tar Baby" an offensive epithet.
That's right, it was actually Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox who were the offensive racial stereotypes. Forgot about them. BTW, many people knew that Tar Baby and some of the other characters were racist stereotypes back when the movie first aired.

You know, I should see it again. I'll bet I'm forgetting some of the racism in the movie. And I'm NOT saying that if you enjoyed it, you're a racist.
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