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-   -   Why Can’t You Watch Disney’s Song of the South? (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=83745)

snopes 06 January 2013 08:04 PM

Why Can’t You Watch Disney’s Song of the South?
 
The Disney Company hasn’t let Song of the South out of its hallowed “vault” in 25 years. The film’s live-action depictions of Uncle Remus and his fellow smilin’, Massah-servin’ black folk are embarrassingly racist. But South’s central song, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” is all but synonymous with Disney itself, and the characters live on in the company’s massively popular Splash Mountain rides. So Song of the South lives on, yet the company can’t even really acknowledge the film, much less cash in on it directly. If you were born after 1980, you’ve almost certainly never seen it in full, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/b..._reviewed.html

crocoduck_hunter 06 January 2013 08:10 PM

I took a US history class at the local community college where we actually watched the entire film (the teacher had it on VHS) as a demonstration of racial stereotypes when we were studying the lead-up to the Civil Rights Movement.

Ramblin' Dave 07 January 2013 12:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 1699825)
If you were born after 1980, you’ve almost certainly never seen it in full, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

Unless your Uncle Dave picked up a copy at a street fair in Taipei for you. ;)

geminilee 07 January 2013 12:47 PM

I actually have a copy of the PAL tape. Mostly as a curiosity piece; I can't play it or anything. Also, while it is undeniably racist and insensitive as a film, I have fond memories of the songs and the characters from my childhood.

Thera 07 January 2013 02:27 PM

I saw it in the theater when it came out. There was a long line.

Seaboe Muffinchucker 07 January 2013 03:10 PM

I saw it in 2011, at the World Science Fiction convention in Reno, NV. It wasn't at all the way I thought it would be, given the controversy about it.

Seaboe

quink 07 January 2013 03:17 PM

My grandma took me to see it in the theater when I was young. Looking at the timeline, it must have been the 1986 re-release. I don't remember much of it, apart from the familiar animated characters, and something about a bull.

For what it's worth, I was born in the last few months of 1979, so I guess I missed the magic cut-off.

Brad from Georgia 07 January 2013 03:59 PM

Song of the South had one of the worst costume schemes in the movies. The film is--theoretically at least--set in 1870, five years after the Civil War, but the clothing is a weird mix, with lots of antebellum stuff thrown in. The dialogue doesn't make the year at all clear, so many audiences assume that Remus and the other African-Americans are still slaves. Actually, they are now free and are tenant farmers.

This is true to the books, but Joel Chandler Harris hopelessly romanticized the Old South and even the former slaves in his works have a great nostalgia for the old days. Oddly, when Harris used Remus in a non-storytelling way, as one of the characters who occasionally commented on the passing scene in Harris's Atlanta Constitution column, Remus was more, well, not exactly militant, but more assertive than he was when telling the folk tales. That Remus was not at all nostalgic about slavery.

For his time and place, Harris was relatively progressive about race relations--but only relatively. And, by the way, he has descendants born of a liaison he had with an African-American servant . . . but I can't say more because a colleague is writing a book about that.

Darth Credence 07 January 2013 04:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Thera (Post 1700062)
I saw it in the theater when it came out. There was a long line.

Not when it originally came out. It didn't do all that well during the initial release in 1946, which is well before you were born. The re-releases in 1980 and 1986 did very well (Grandma took me in 1980), and would have likely had lines. I remember during the 1986 release that there was controversy about it. Some of my relatives wanted to take their kids, while others in the family said it was offensive, based on the 1980 viewing. I didn't really remember the show except for Zippy-Do-Dah, so I actually don't know how bad it is, but there were some bad feelings in my family over it. The branch of the family that I have come to realize since are pretty much bigots were claiming it wasn't that bad, and just reflected the time it came out. It would be interesting to discuss this article, particularly the bits that make it clear it was controversial on release, with my family, but we don't talk much anymore.

Swordmaster 07 January 2013 05:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ramblin' Dave (Post 1700029)
Unless your Uncle Dave picked up a copy at a street fair in Taipei for you. ;)

Can I please, please, please call you Uncle Dave from now on?

:p

mags 07 January 2013 05:45 PM

I'm nearly certain we watched this at least once as a filmstrip when I was in elementary school. Not as historical commentary but as entertainment. I was born in 1976.

It's possible I just picked up pieces of it over the years from The Wonderful World of Color on TV, but I feel like I saw the whole thing once. I know very well my mom wouldn't have taken me to see it in the theaters though. Even though I was oblivious to the racist paternalism, she wouldn't have been.

Seaboe Muffinchucker 07 January 2013 06:42 PM

As a filmstrip? How do you watch a 1.5-2 hour film in strip form?

Seaboe

Starla 07 January 2013 07:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker (Post 1700086)
It wasn't at all the way I thought it would be, given the controversy about it.

How did it differ from your expectations?

I have never seen the movie. I remember wanting to see the '86 re-release but my parents refused to take my brother and I because they felt we weren't old enough to understand why the stereotypes were problematic.

kanazawa 07 January 2013 08:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Starla (Post 1700234)
How did it differ from your expectations?

I have never seen the movie. I remember wanting to see the '86 re-release but my parents refused to take my brother and I because they felt we weren't old enough to understand why the stereotypes were problematic.

Weren't the crows from Dumbo (that sang "When I see an elephant fly") pretty racist too?

crocoduck_hunter 07 January 2013 08:41 PM

Yes. As I recall, there were a lot of cartoon characters from that era that were.

mags 07 January 2013 08:48 PM

Looking it up, I see the terminology of "film strip" in my school system was not technically accurate. We watched literal film strips (images with a sound track that included beeps to mark when to advance), but watching any movie on a projector in class was referred to as a "film strip", at least among the students.

Doing my research to figure out what you meant, I believe it must have actually been 16-mm film I am thinking of. I haven't found yet whether Song of the South was ever released in this manner* to confirm or deny my memory of having watched it in class. I definitely know it was before our schools had VHS.

*eta: apparently it has http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthr...g-of-the-South

Lainie 07 January 2013 09:08 PM

I bought Dumbo for DD when she was little. I'd never seen it and the crows were an unpleasant surprise.

erwins 07 January 2013 09:20 PM

I saw it in 1980, when I would have been 10. I think my mother was probably oblivious to the racism going in, and possibly even afterwards. We lived in the South, but my mother is Norwegian and was at times very ignorant about race issues. She is also at times fairly credulous when "educated" by bigots on certain issues. There have been some intense conversations when she spouts something racist that she just accepted without thinking it through.

I do have some fond memories of the film though--I'd like to see it again as an adult to see how I'd evaluate it now.

quink 07 January 2013 09:33 PM

Dumbo was one of my favorite Disney films when I was a kid. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized the crows represented anything other than silly crows. It wasn't a stereotype I was exposed to in my area.

Beejtronic 07 January 2013 09:39 PM

It's on Youtube if anyone's interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BtjW7PW2z0.

I skimmed through it, but the parts I watched were pretty saccharine and boring. Not sure I'd bother watching the whole thing, really.


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