Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SONG OF THE SOUTH


When I was a kid I loved the Disney movie Song of the South. I actually don't really even remember what it was about, but I remember loving the music and the scenery. It was a very eye catching film with lots of different plots. When I looked up the origins of the film I found out some interesting things. The film was created in 1946 and it mixed animation with live actors. The story was based on stories told to "Uncle Remus" who was Joel Chandler Harris. He grew up during the Civil war in Georgia. During that time he wrote down tales and stories that were told to him by former slaves. These stories, many of which were told to him by an old black man called "Uncle George" were first published as columns in the Atlanta Constitution and were later syndicated nation wide and published in a book. The Atlanta Constitution is a major daily newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia. According to Wikipedia "The film has never been released on home video in the USA because of content which Disney executives believe would be construed by some as racially insensitive towards blacks and is thus subject to much rumor, although it does exist on home video in the UK and Japan." The story does take place on a plantation in the south and does depict slaves and "tar baby" an old decoy for Brer Rabbit sitting on a fence.
As I look back as a kid seeing this movie, I do recall knowing the difference between what was portrayed in the movie as a historical setting vs. how life is was for me as a kid in the 70's. Racial struggles were still rampant in America in the 70's but I know that I knew that things were indeed different. However, I lived in the west, Utah, where there were and are still very few black people. I still sing Zippety Doo Dah in the car on long trips and wonder if we can appreciate the historical setting and somewhat positive message in the film without the sensitivity factor determining the shelving of what I think is a beautiful film. It is actually quite progressive for the time period. The children love uncle Remus and he is their best friend...so I am throwing it out there to you good folks...Is this movie racially insensitive or is it mimicking a time in American history in art form?

16 comments:

namaste said...

1946? clearly the film is simply reflecting the time that we were living in. i LOVED the song, zippety doo-dah! who doesn't?

but i also understand that 1946 was very painful period for us. and we had every right to feel sensitive at that time and years later. it'll be hard for ppl to separate and see the art in this. of course we all know, it's art, it's history and it's a classic.

nice post nik.

Sandi said...

It's mimicking the time. What about all those old movies where women are treated like property? Or the "Indians" are just savages to be killed? Or all Japanese are bad guys? Same for Germans. Or all Italians are Mafia? The joy of old movies is seeing a glimpse of those times and hope we've grown since then. And, frankly, zipitty do da is a great song!

Mustang said...

As a film produced in a different time, I don't see Song of the South any more controversial than Gone With the Wind. If either of these movies were to be made today, would political correctness force producers to depict slaves differently, or cut them out of the film altogether? And if that were to happen, would people get a completely different idea about life in the south during or after the Civil War?

My mother took me to see this film in the early 1950s. I was five or six years old. At that age, I didn't know about racism, or slavery, or the civil war; it never occurred to me that Uncle Remeu was a black man. No, what amazed me was the blue birds could wear top hats and that rabbits could talk ... and I remember Uncle Remus was a very nice man.

Is the film even relevant today? Probably not. I recall the controversy some years ago by nitwits who objected to The Lady and the Tramp because they weren't married and had puppies. My gosh, are we really that stupid? Meanwhile, kids today are entertained by video games that allow them to murder a prostitute after having sex with her in the back of a pretend automobile. God forbid that we should actually take our children to a movie that makes them feel happy.

EDGE said...

I'm related to the man that wrote the book "Song of the South."

Would love to see the movie again!

Nikki said...

Hey Maria, it is all of the above isn't it...it is sensitive, but what I like about the movie is the relationship between the kids and Uncle Remus. It shows that thought processes are changing and perhaps Hollywood did some good in that regard. It is hard to look back and not forward...that is a good point. :)N

Sandi, great point about movies depicting american culture in the "was" catagory. It is time to get passed a lot of injustices and some new found ridiculous PC views. :)N

Mustang, thanks for the comment. Its funny how when we are kids we don't see some things until adults explain the bad parts of life and circumstances...we eventually figure it out on our own and that of course is what opens our eyes and makes us aware of contraversy, our adulthood. bummer for us. :)N

Edge, I would like to hear more about that bit of information...do tell :)N

ba and the boys said...

i remember seeing this in the 1980s (im old, but not as old as some of YOU!). in fact, the story of bere rabbit was my little brothers favorites growing up.
i never thought of it as racist or unsensitive. like many movies, it showed what was happening in america at the time. just like stayin alive is/will be.

Khaki Elephant said...

I really don't remember much about the movie except that one song. It's one of my favs from Disney (In my book, nothing tops "I Wanna Be Like You").

I did watch Disney's Peter Pan a while back and wondered in our sensitive climate why "What Made The Red Man Red" hasn't caused a banning or two.

Nikki said...

Khaki, I wanna be like you as in The Jungle Book...one of my faves too...but now when I watch some of these old films they are soooo not technical like the ones today and yet still soooo good, mostly because they bring back really great memories. I wanna walk like you talk like you you hoo hoo! :)N

Marci said...

It is unfortunate that good, classic, historic movies are not out there for our children to watch because the ADULTS are having issues with it. When we moved to GA I am almost postive my children hadn't seen more than 5 african americans in their lives. I wondered what their reaction would be.... Nothing, they weren't phased. To a four year old, people are people, children are children, friends are friends. I had to laugh when I was pregnant with Nathan here, they asked me what color he would be! I am really going to miss the cultural diversity here when we move back to Utah. My other thought on this is, in an effort to be and stay politically correct we are going to alter history, that is the truly tradgic.

CHATTI PATTI said...

I really don't like it when something classic gets turned into ugliness.

Incognito said...

It's art... we have become all too thin skinned these days in a world that has become increasingly pc.

DB said...

I see this as an issue soley about money. It makes sense for Disney to want to avoid any controversy that would tarnish it's image or even bring into dialogue it's actions in the past. Corporations like Disney only have their bottom line and image to worry about and in times like this they would probably prefer to avoid any unneccessary controversies. I doubt it would cause an uproar but then again, some people are touchy to things that baffle me (like the Christians protesting the Black Canary Barbie release on the news yesterday).

Nikki said...

Marci, it is unfortunate! I loved this show and sometimes we OVER think things and situations. Too many people are too easily offended but there are too many who are easy to offend...its a double edged sword. Thanks for your thoughts! :)N

Chatti, I agree. Too often things are innocent and get turned into something they are not...however it seems like we are not all on the same page when it comes to defining things! :)N

Hey incognito, I appreciate your thoughts as you are in the entertainment industry, you have a unique insiders view. PC has created a thin skinned society, I agree!

DB, I think you make a good point. Disney is practicing good business...too much contraversy could be bad for their bottom line, its too bad. :)N

Z said...

This is THE sweetest stuff...that man has SUCh a gorgeous voice/speaking and singing.

Hey, when I was very little, we had AMOS AND ANDY on the TV...that was apparently deemed racist too and yanked off TV after years of millions of people watching it. Funny, I would have thought seeing the sweet lives of a Black neighborhood was good for ALL of America. there was NOTHING racist about it! But, no....it had to GO!

It was actually working wonders in bringing DOWN race fears, etc..these men were adorable, smart, kind and amusing. WOW, can't have Black folk like THAT, RIGHT? (geeeZ!)

Nikki said...

Z, you make a great point. It seems like even the most ridiculous portrayals of blacks back in the day are at least portrayals...it was a start, though perhaps a stereotyped one...thanks for sharing your view. :)N

f1trey said...

all these wonderful comments.....my comment is ....cool....killer flick