A Song of the South


I normally shy away from harder fare for my photoblog, but for once have to meet nastiness head on. The hurt in question is over the place of reality as it relates to history and to young minds.

First off, let me ask, “How do you do?”

The topic in question: The Song of the South (an old Walt Disney film).

Here is a link for the tales if you have NEVER heard that title before:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_of_the_South

And here is a wonderful resource for all things Song of the South:

http://www.songofthesouth.net/index.php

You may ask yourself, have I heard of this? If you haven’t, I assure you you’ve heard a song from it.

If you grew up during the 80s or 90s (or were a kid that grew up watching/listening to Disney Sing-A-Longs), then you’ve heard the following tune:

Now notice that at the end of the clip that there are a group of children singing the song as well. A young white boy and girl and their black friend (a young boy as well). They are doing nothing more than enjoying each others company and basking in the innocence of their youth before the world tells them that they cannot hang out with one another. The background for the movie is set in Post Reconstruction Era American Deep South (say that five times fast, LOL), so the clothes and the ideals are a little different than today. When the movie was first released in the 40s it was an eye opener as well. Controversy has LONG followed this film.

BUT WHY?

In the early days of film and since the abhorred slant of life in America given by “Birth of a Nation”, cinema took to trying to TRULY tell the stories of American perspective in the most simple and honest format. In fact so much so that when “Gone With The Wind” came out and told it’s epic tale of life in the South and the bitterness that existed (set in almost the same period as “Song of the South”, it won TEN Academy Awards (with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress going to Hattie McDaniel, the FIRST African American to win an Academy Award).

How odd is it that some seven years later that McDaniel would star in ANOTHER film about life in the South playing a “mammy” type role and that it’s content about racial relations between blacks and whites as being almost near to par (Uncle Remus, one of the main characters of the story, is free to travel as he will) was panned as being a “travesty on the antebellum South.” In a total turn of events, EVEN THE NAACP is on record as saying that the movie “…unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.”

The facts are that A) slavery occurred, B) the word “Nigger” was used back then and still is today (to MUCH different degree, though I regret that it is said at all honestly), and that C) the story PROMOTES harmony between the races. Much like the critically acclaimed musical “Ragtime”, “Song of the South” displays a rare found courage in trying to show the times in part for what they were.

These are the images from between the printed matter and the poster I was able to collect over the years. None of this is offensive in the very least.

Now do you find a way to incorporate whips and mutilation into a children’s cartoon in order to strike home injustice or do you let the story on its own merit invite questions into a child’s eye about difference in culture?

I believe the latter to be the case. Walt Disney wasn’t trying to create a mockery of the South or instill a comical view of the American Negro, either. Present day America has done that quite fine on it’s own.

“Soul Plane?”

“Madea (fill in the blank here) adjective adjective noun.”

And most anything that doesn’t pass as Intelligent Rap/Hip Hop these days.

The tales and mutters of Old Negro dialect read better than most lyrics to what is passing as Rap these days anyway, truth be told. Disney stands with the following statement about release of the film here in the States (although you can get the film abroad with no issue): “…there’s been a lot of internal discussion about Song of the South. And at some point we’re going to do something about it. I don’t know when, but we will. We know we want people to see Song of the South because we realize it’s a big piece of company history, and we want to do it the right way.”

What would Uncle Remus say about it all?

“Youk’n hide de fier, but w’at you gwine do wid de smoke?” (You can hide the fire, but what are you going to do with the smoke?)

You can hide the truth that you made a beautiful production all you want Disney, but one day the film will HAVE to come to light and I will petition long and hard to have it happen sooner rather than later. For a film that takes African Trickster stories and then shows how they became part of the American Negro culture and how it influenced ALL people of the South (not just the Blacks) and hide it is just not good form.

It’s like saying “Nigger” without saying it because of how they’ve pushed the film off to the slave quarters of its vault. The money is still made through it’s work although it never gets its time to shine fully. The work of many held down by a select few (even at the expense of making money off the one song that unites the masses). Even the movie itself NEVER has the N word used in it.

The “Magical Negro” Archetype envisioned for so long STARTED with Uncle Remus. Before you had Morgan Freeman as God, before you had Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, before you had Sam L. Jackson as Mr. Glass, and well before you had empowered individuals such as Kunta Kinte or Fiddler from “Roots”, you had UNCLE REMUS.

I’m off to find my laughing place, but this scenario is none too funny.

Thank you for bearing with my first rant in a while, but the topic stands close to my heart. Don’t punish the many for the sins of a few (and generations long gone). Let art live and let it’s story ring aloud for all to see AND hear!

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About rufusp2k8

I'm a local freelance photographer taking in life and musing on how things are and what they could be all through my lens. I add light and sound to further the vision each Tuesday and Thursday. I can be found on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ebonsoul-Photos/227797643952140 or e-mailed for work/events here: bigbgk@hotmail.com For other content by myself, check out: http://about.me/Brian_G_Knowles
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