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Old 22 November 2009, 06:24 PM
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Disney Walt Disney -- prince or toad?

There is a long-standing belief among detractors that Walt Disney was anything but the amiable, avuncular, kind-hearted figure he appeared to be on his television program and in his promotions. The real Disney, so this version goes, was a rabid reactionary who was intemperate, crabbed and mean -- racially and ethnically insensitive at best, a racist and anti-Semite at worst. Under his supervision, the Disney studio was inhospitable to minorities, few of whom were said to have worked there, and they were virtually verboten on the screen, except to be ridiculed. Disney's was a white, Protestant, middle-class studio and fantasy. Minorities need not apply.

How much of this portrait was the product of a smear campaign by Walt's enemies and how much a product of Walt's own unenlightened attitudes is difficult to determine. What one can say is that the truth about Walt Disney seems much more complicated and nuanced than either his enemies or supporters would have you believe.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment...0,978597.story
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Old 17 December 2009, 03:33 AM
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I would like to see "Soung of the South" one day, so I can see for myself, if it really is that bad. I have a hard time believing, that Disney did a movie, that was so offensive, that it got complaints even back in the 40s.
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Old 18 December 2009, 03:04 PM
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Well, Disney famously wore a "Goldwater for President" button while meeting Lyndon Johnson at a White House ceremony, which would indicate his conservative credentials.

Of course, it's risky attributing racism to someone in the 1940s; racism was endemic and unthinking (Isaac Asimov once used the term "innocent racism" to describe people who held racist opinions because of how they grew up, but who really didn't hate blacks as individuals). By today's standards, nearly everyone in the 30s and 40s were racist and antisemitic.
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Old 18 December 2009, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
By today's standards, nearly everyone in the 30s and 40s were racist and antisemitic.
and sexist, too.

Seaboe
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  #5  
Old 18 December 2009, 08:01 PM
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Even by the standards of the times, some of the things Disney is accused of saying, doing, and believing were regressive. It was possible, even in those ugly times, to hold comparatively liberal views, even if the very same views, today, would be considered slightly old-fashioned and embarassingly bigoted. This was an era where, even among the best supporters of civil rights, you'd still often find, "...but I wouldn't want my sister to marry one" hypocrisy.

On the other hand, Goldwater conservatives were far more likely to be in the lower half of the bell curve, not in the upper...

And, anyway, we don't know for sure how many of the accusations are true. Did Disneyland try to keep blacks out of the park? A recent snopes thread seemed to have debunked the charge.

Even Song of the South is a tricky case: most reviews I've read say only that it was patronizing, but not vicious. It suffered, a little, from the "Magic Negro" syndrome -- a trope that is far from extinct today.

Silas
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Old 21 December 2009, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Even Song of the South is a tricky case: most reviews I've read say only that it was patronizing, but not vicious. It suffered, a little, from the "Magic Negro" syndrome -- a trope that is far from extinct today.

Silas
We own a bootleg copy we bought a few years ago & it has Korean subtitles on the songs & after watching it I'd say it was on par with the racism in Gone With The Wind. That whole "Mammy" & as you said "Magic Negro" thing. Both were period pieces too & fairly consistent with portrayals of the time.

I've seen far worse portrayals then & now.
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Old 13 January 2010, 10:19 PM
Assilem Brandywine Assilem Brandywine is offline
 
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My opinion on this is Walt was just a man. He was neither all good or all bad. He was one of those people that fell in the grey area, especially if you consider the time he lived in.
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Old 13 January 2010, 10:54 PM
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The greatest problem with "Song of the South" for me (disclosure: I did my graduate work on the writings of Joel Chandler Harris) is that the script was so muddy about detail that half the audience goes away thinking it is a pre-Civil War story and that Remus and the others are slaves. It's actually set during Reconstruction--the father of the little boy writes for the Atlanta Constitution newspaper and is pretty obviously based on Joel Chandler Harris's editor and friend Henry W. Grady.

The African-Americans are free, not slaves--tenant farmers. But it's terribly hard to tell that--the references to the war are vague, and the patronizing attitude is offensive and reactionary. The original stories, by the way, presented Remus as independent and opinionated, not subservient (at least not beyond giving the mandatory gestures of respect toward the white ruling class).
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Old 13 January 2010, 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia View Post
The greatest problem with "Song of the South" for me is that the script was so muddy about detail that half the audience goes away thinking it is a pre-Civil War story and that Remus and the others are slaves.
Indeed, many viewers whose only exposure to the material is the Disney film aren't sure whether the black characters are supposed to be slaves or not. Many of them assume the film is set in the antebellum or Civil War period and that the characters are indeed slaves, and they come away thinking that Walt was a racist who glossed over slavery by either pretending it didn't exist or by portraying it benignly.
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  #10  
Old 15 January 2010, 12:40 PM
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When I was a kid and saw Song of the South in the 70's, I'll be honest - I was bored and ignored the human stuff. I was totally only in it for the cartoons. However, I got the impression that Uncle Remus worked for the family somehow (I didn't know anything about the Civil War or slavery at that age).
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Old 15 January 2010, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Furienna View Post
I would like to see "Soung of the South" one day, so I can see for myself, if it really is that bad. I have a hard time believing, that Disney did a movie, that was so offensive, that it got complaints even back in the 40s.
I've seen "Song of the South" and I really don't get what the big deal was. It's supposedly so offensive that it's never been released on video in the US, but "Gone With the Wind" is considered a cinematic classic and I'd say the two are on par with old-fashioned offensiveness.

BTW if you want to see "Song of the South;" I'd never illegally download a movie myself or advise anyone else to do it. But bittorrent is your friend.
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Old 16 January 2010, 02:04 PM
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I might have seen SOTS as a kid, but I am not sure. Was there a scene in it where the little boy was given a lacey collar, which he later gave to a little girl. And was the same girl pushed into a puddle or something like that, while on her way to a party. If this was the film, then I didn't pick up on the racism.

I saw GWTW when I was around 12 or so. By that time, I was much more aware of slavery in the South, having just read "Freedom Train", a book about Harriet Tubman. I was aware of the racism in GWTW right away. I also thought that Scarlett was a right twit - I still do.

BTW, I see that a much more nortorious film "Birth of a Nation" is available on DVD. Okay, it is not a film that I would let my seven year old nephew watch without a great of deal explaining. But anyone with a credit card can order it off Amazon

Last edited by catty5nutz; 16 January 2010 at 02:25 PM.
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  #13  
Old 16 January 2010, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by catty5nutz View Post
I might have seen SOTS as a kid, but I am not sure. Was there a scene in it where the little boy was given a lacey collar, which he later gave to a little girl. And was the same girl pushed into a puddle or something like that, while on her way to a party. If this was the film, then I didn't pick up on the racism.
Yes--Ginny, the poor little (white) girl was dressed as well as her impoverished mother could arrange it, and she was on her way to a play party with Johnny (the boy to whom Uncle Remus told his stories). The loutish Favers boys, her brothers, push her into a mud puddle just to be mean. Johnny had given her a lace collar, and she was so proud of it that falling into the mud broke her heart. The point was that Johnny has learned from Uncle Remus's stories; he uses the same tricky tactics that Brer Rabbit used against Brer Fox to ward off the Favers boys and make sure they get a good whipping for their being so mean to Ginny.
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Old 16 January 2010, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by fitz1980 View Post
I've seen "Song of the South" and I really don't get what the big deal was. It's supposedly so offensive that it's never been released on video in the US, but "Gone With the Wind" is considered a cinematic classic and I'd say the two are on par with old-fashioned offensiveness.
But that's kinda the point. Gone With the Wind is a cinematic classic, while Song of the South is one of the decidedly lesser films in the Disney canon. Why reissue something that is neither critically acclaimed nor particularly popular, something that probably isn't going to sell very well but will likely be the focus of some very prominent negative publicity?
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Old 16 January 2010, 08:16 PM
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It'd be kind of interesting to see them re-do SOTS, but that would probably open up a Pandora's Box for Disney, both in the sense of highlighting the magical Negro-osity of the original movie and a counter-charge by conservatives whining about how PC is destroye Merka (which would happen even if Disney took the original stories verbatim; the fact that the word-for-word stories are not as racist as the original movie was would make the Rush Limbaughs of this country froth with invented anger). So I guess by "interesting" I mean "amazingly stupid" but that is a form of interesting.
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Old 16 January 2010, 08:25 PM
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One approach might be to shoot different live action framing sequences while keeping the animated bits intact, and include the original framing story as a bonus feature (with appropriate explanatory context). The sections that mix animation with live action could pose something of a problem, though.
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Old 18 January 2010, 04:29 AM
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I think that Disney should just let an independent company release Song of the South on video. They don't want the heat of such a controversial movie mixed in with their "Disney Classics" so let somebody else do it. That way you can avoid angry parents complaining that they bought it because it said "Disney" on the box and were shocked at what the film contained; and film buffs can still see it.

They could even have some bonus features about the historical context of the film and the various controversies. "Triumph of Will" (Nazi propaganda film) & "Birth of a Nation" (glorifying the KKK) are both available on DVD and the features and video boxes make no bones about the racist messages in those films. In fact they usually take great care to mention that we still watch and study those films because of their important place in film history, not because we agree with their messages.
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Old 18 January 2010, 04:41 AM
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They don't want the heat of such a controversial movie mixed in with their "Disney Classics" so let somebody else do it
It's still indelibly a "Disney" film, no matter who distributes it.

Quote:
"Triumph of Will" (Nazi propaganda film) & "Birth of a Nation" (glorifying the KKK) are both available on DVD and the features and video boxes make no bones about the racist messages in those films.
But that's not quite analogous, as no contemporary studio's image is tied to those films.
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Old 20 January 2010, 02:35 AM
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Yeah, after WWII, it's been impossible to find an original Nazi run film studio!
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Old 24 January 2010, 07:20 AM
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Yeah, after WWII, it's been impossible to find an original Nazi run film studio!
Until Rupert Murdoch acquired 20th Century Fox.

OK fine, still not origional.
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