Skip to comments.'Song of the South' pits art vs. cultural sensitivity
Posted on 03/31/2007 7:54:50 PM PDT by fgoodwin
'Song of the South' pits art vs. cultural sensitivity
BY RON MENCHACA
The Post and Courier
Talk of a possible re-release of the 1946 Walt Disney film 'Song of the South,' which is criticized for its plantation-era depictions of blacks as the happy servants of wealthy whites, already is sparking a debate.
The film was reshown in theaters as recently as 1986, but it never was released on video in the United States. Its cultural and cinematic significance have been the subject of scholarly debate for decades, and bootlegged copies of the film are popular on the black market and online.
The film tells the story of a young white boy who goes to live on his grandparents' Georgia plantation. The boy is charmed by Uncle Remus, a popular black servant who tells fables of Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and Brer Fox.
Film scholars hail the movie's cinematic qualities and ahead-of-its-time fusion of live action and animation. But critics say the film's depictions of blacks stir hard feelings and reinforce negative stereotypes.
The Rev. Joseph A. Darby, pastor of Morris Brown AME Church and first vice president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement Colored People, said the movie could send mixed messages if it were made more widely available. 'It's unfortunate, but American history has to be treated gingerly,' he said. 'I ain't gonna go see it.'
Darby said exposing younger people to the African-American folk tales retold in
Darby said exposing younger people to the African-American folk tales retold in the film would have some educational value, but he said it's also important to remember that the folklore was 'stolen' and repackaged for profit.
Marcus Cox, founding director of the African-American Studies program at The Citadel, said the film could be a valuable teaching resource if a re-release is offered with proper historical analysis and context. He said older Americans who lived through the racism of the Jim Crow era might not agree. 'There are still many white people who don't understand how hurtful those stereotypes are,' Cox said. 'The myth of the happy slave was just that - a myth.'
Darby noted that the term 'tar baby,' which is used in the movie, still generates controversy because it's considered a derogatory term for blacks. Last year, Gov. Mark Sanford issued an apology after coming under fire for using the term to describe a government debate. More recently, Republican presidential hopefuls Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were criticized for using the same term to describe difficult situations.
In 'Song of the South,' the tar baby was a trick Brer Fox and Brer Bear used to catch the rabbit - dressing a lump of hot tar as a person to ensnare their prey.
Scholars debate whether the film takes place before or after the Civil War because blacks are not referred to as slaves. Blacks in the film live in shacks while the white characters reside in a stately plantation home.
Disney President and CEO Bob Iger acknowledges that re-releasing the film would pose challenges. 'Our concern was that a film that was made so many decades ago being brought out today perhaps could be either misinterpreted or that it would be somewhat challenging in terms of providing the appropriate context,' Iger said.
State Sen. Robert Ford said he would expect widespread controversy and calls for Disney's top officials to step down if the company pulls the movie out of its archives. 'It would be shameful,' said Ford, D-Charleston. 'They would be targeted for major demonstrations.'
In a statement, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Disney's distribution arm, left any plans open to speculation, saying it had 'not discounted nor committed to' the film's re-release.
Never mind; see:
"Blacks in the film live in shacks while the white characters reside in a stately plantation home."
That isn't true, one rich white family and perhaps servants live in the mansion, while the other white family which is poor lives in a shack.
I just ordered an "unofficial" DVD copy (they're out there,
do a search) for $10 or so...but Di$ney could be raking in a lot of dough if they re-issue it _officially_.
There are clips from SotS on YouTube.
lots more on the movie:
Also not a fan of mixing cartoons and the real world.
I never considered Sambo racial....I didn't know what racial was...even growing up in the South.
We respected everyone....my parents taught me well.
Sambo, from my perspective, was a fun story about a tiger and pancakes!...
Remus was about being clever when folks are tyring to trick you.
The movie Glory..has quite a bit of colorful language the black soldiers say to each other....
..but it is one of the most stirring, emotionally wrenching movies and best I have seen in a long time.
In Amazing Grace...a cur & insolent Member of Paliament tries to sell his ('insert N word here'...but they say the word in the movie,)... and it shows clearly an example of the abuse, disrespect & incivility towards the slaves.
We are on a fast track to PC every bit of our heritage out of society.....all the colorful dialects, all the nuances.
Said to be a beautiful movie; nice music etc.
Cultural sensitivity could be better described as negro paranoia.
Sambo is Indian, not negro
Personally haven't seen it yet, but when it comes out on DVD, can go get it.
Yes, I know very well.
...however, the very name Sambo was considered a negative in the past PC years, and much was made of it.
The word pictures were gut wrenching...but not graphic.
The director conveyed the horror of slave ships & the souls of good men who are haunted by their part in the slave trade.
Wilberforce is well played and so are the other parts.
John Newton (Albert Finney)... wrenching pathos as he wrestled with his conscience.
A word of warning.
I ordered an official copy of this film from a web site, not knowing it was based in Canada, where this film is legally available.
After receiving not one, but two empty cases, I got the message and had the third order brought from Canada as the private property of a Canadian tourist.
This chapped my hide to the point where I know of a person who will offer free copies of this film to people in the U.S. who qualify.
Incidentally, this film is readily available also in Great Britain. Just not in the U.S.
I bought an official Disney copy of SOTS in PAL format from a shop in the UK about six years ago. I had to take it to a local electronics shop to convert it to an NTSC-format VHS that my American VCR could play -- the shop assured me if I made the transfer for my personal use, it was all legit.
But it was kind of expensive -- the UK PAL video cost me about $50 after currency conversion, and about $25 for overseas shipping, then add another $20 for the format conversion.
The quality of the NTSC conversion wasn't all that great. So let the buyer beware: make sure the copy you buy will play in an American VCR, or be prepared to pay for a conversion (I knew when I bought my copy I would have to convert it).