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Disney's Song of the South - the Classic that Never Happened

Recently I listened to a Kevin Smith smodcast in which he mentioned Disney's Song of the South as being the film that Disney treats like it never happened. (Sorry don't remember the exact show but his comment was a brief, one sentence aside to another discussion).

A few days later one of my Social Network Friends posts a link to a new book, Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories by Jim Korkis, as well as a link to the entire movie posted to YouTube (embeded below). If you have the time it's well worth watching.



I'd never seen the full film so I spent my some of my morning watching it on YouTube. I had become curious as to why the film had been largely pushed to the side by Disney since its last theatrical and home video release in 1986.

Apparently in a post 1986 world, the film, which was originally released in 1946, is now 'culturally insensitive' and even considered racist by some people.

After watching the film it's actually quite hard to see how this film is racist, or even culturally insensitive for that matter. Sure it's filled with stereotypes and perhaps its depiction of American life during the reconstruction is far too idealistic (shock, horror a Disney movie showing an 'idealistic' view of life - that never happens) but the heart and intention of the film is anything but racist.

It's especially odd that the film is viewed unfavorably in its treatment of African American people when the central character of Uncle Remus is dispensing all the wisdom and common sense messages of the film through his fun stories about Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear.

I also recently watched the movie The Color Purple and I have to say the depiction of African Americans in both films was not that dissimilar. Naturally the Disney movie lacks the gritty realism of The Color Purple being a kids film but otherwise not that different.

If there is one thing the internet has taught people it's that context matters. For Song of the South to have been made and released in 1946, at a time when people were less culturally tolerant, this movie would probably have been seen as quite progressive I would think.

Though my research reveals it was considered racist even back then by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). NAACP seemed to take much issue with the stereotypical characters of the film and also felt it was revisionist of history.

Despite that, surely today's modern audiences are smart enough to know that a movie is a product of its time and should be appreciated in the context of the time?

As far as cultural insensitivity goes I see more African American people on TV shows like Hardcore Pawn causing more cultural damage than anything a film like Song of the South would do if shown to audiences of today.

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