Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 at 9:13 pm. About Entertainment.

Song of the South due for release

Another nostalgic blog post of sorts…with commentary.

I was intrigued to see this article on MSNBC this evening, informing me that Disney’s 1940s film, Song of the South, is finally to be released to the public for purchase, more than 60 years after its screening premiere. I remember seeing the movie with my dad during that 1986 theater release, and laughing for days about the Uncle Remus stories. Of course, years later I heard it mentioned that Song of the South contained racist elements, which puzzled me. I suppose it may be racist in the same way groups have considered The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn racist – that black characters speak with a dialect and are in positions of subservience to white characters? I suppose I see why this may be offensive – but I also understand that in the rural south many years ago, while it was unfortunate that black Americans were not afforded the same opportunities for higher education and advancement in status, it was the cruel and unfortunate reality of this time period.

If anything, I recall feeling positively towards Jim in Huck Finn, and I definitely remember liking Uncle Remus’ character (disclaimer: I have not seen the film since 1986, so I’m operating purely on my impression at the time) in Song of the South. He entertains a young boy with his imaginative stories, and as an eight-year-old child growing up in Texas, I did not view him as an inferior person, but as the hero of the movie – the story-teller who brought us Brer Rabbit.

I think to say that Song of the South is a racist film, one might have to make the same claim about Gone With The Wind, an accusation which I have not heard raised (although I’m sure it has been at some point). Mammy is a slave, and speaks her dialect, and is in a position subservient to her white owners – but the movie is lauded for winning multiple Academy Awards, and Hattie McDaniel even won the Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy! Incidentally, as the article points out, the actor portraying Uncle Remus earned an honorary Oscar for his depiction too. Yet, Gone With The Wind could not have been the great film that it was if Mammy had been an attorney with the local law firm while speaking the Queen’s English, as it would not have been realistic. The only other option would have been to not make the movie, and do we really want to deny the past?

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