Yeah…it’s racism and racial stereotypes taken completely for granted. Hell, I remember seeing it when I was a kid and even THEN being uncomfortable with the racial stereotyping and casual racism. And in dem ole days racism was still pretty much an open and unremarked attitude by a large part of the population.
If I was Disney, I’d probably just keep it locked up, too. Disney markets its animated features to the youngest, most impressionable audience there is, and all it would take is one clueless parents to ignite a firestorm of controversy. They could do some sort of adult collector’s edition, but I’m not surprised they haven’t bothered. At any rate, the movie isn’t that hard to come by.
Anyway, yes, Songs of the South has racist elements. But that doesn’t mean it’s totally worthless. Hell, Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs is considerably more… problematic, in a number of respects, and that cartoon is a masterpiece.
I haven’t seen the film recently, and apparently it’s extremely difficult to do so. But if I recall, Uncle Remus was portrayed as the only likable adult in the film. Yes, he speaks in a dialect, but not too exageratedly. He never appears ignorant, and the film never ridicules him.
As for the Br’er Rabbit animation inserts, the characters speak in the same southern dialect, but they aren’t designated to a specific race.
I think people really need to lighten up. It really was quite a pleasant little film, and very technically advanced for the time.
It’s more of a time piece. It doesn’t imply blacks are unintelligent or inferior, but it shows them as definitely second class citizens (which they were, literally and legally) and is awkward by our standards, but I wouldn’t call it racist. It should also be remembered it’s seen from the point of view of a child- it’s not a social treatise.
Uncle Remus was a composite of several older men Joel Chandler Harris knew when he was a child growing up in the slave quarters of a Georgia plantation. Harris was the illegitimate son of an impoverished mother who was taken in by the plantation owners as an act of charity and thus, though white, he wasn’t on a much higher social plane than the slaves. Harris definitely had affection for these men, and likely saw some of them as father figures, and the notions he had that they were “happy darkies” who loved their lot in life were dispelled when Sherman came through the area and many ran away with him. He recalled one ancient black man going off with them and dying a few days later and the old man’s wife crying that at least he died free. On the other hand, Uncle Remus uses the word nigger constantly in his books (as did GWTW), and the studio elected not to include it, yet somehow the blacks seem less simplistic in the books (as they did in GWTW).
I think it would be interesting to make a movie about Harris and the origins of Uncle Remus, both in his experiences and the evolving African trickster tales that got passed down. Ironically,
Very much a product of it’s time. When it was released in 1946 it was rather progressive. Remus isn’t portrayed as stupid or inept, in fact he’s smarter than the white adults in the movie. It’s hard to see that now because he sounds like an illiterate, uneducated sharecropper, but then that’s exactly what he’s supposed to be. Most of the complaints come from people claiming it shows him being a happy slave, but it’s set during the Reconstruction so Remus is really a sharecropper, for what difference that makes. It also gets flack for the “Disneyfication” of the Reconstruction, but it’s a kid’s movie so I think it deserves some slack there.
Interestingly the actor who played Uncle Remus, James Baskett, was originally just supposed to provide voice work for an animated narrator. It was Walt Disney who was so impressed with him that he rewrote it to have a human actor and gave Baskett the lead role in the film. Baskett won an (Honorary) Oscar for the role, making him the first black man ever recognised by the Academy.
He also didn’t attend the film’s premier because they didn’t let Blacks in the theater.
Not in any way shape or form “racist”. Politically incorrect, and today it would appear insensitive to many.
Most who condemn it have never seen it or remember it wrongly, like one poster just a while ago that condemned it for “the happy singing slaves”. Of course, there were no slaves portrayed in the film, which was set in the Reconstruction.
I dunno how “Disneyfied” the portrayal of Reconstruction is; the kid and his mother are at the plantation in the first place because the father, a newspaperman, has ticked off the Klan and sent them away to get them out of danger. Not so sugarcoated as all that.
Disney has gone back into its vault and cleaned up a lot of it’s old cartoons to make them more palatable to modern audiences, and wisely so. “Three Little Pigs” has a horrendous Jewish vendor costume for the Big Bad Wolf that was changed to “Fuller Brush Salesman.”
Song of the South was an honest effort and a well-made film for its day. I wish I had an archival copy of it in my collection. Not sure I’d feel comfortable showing it to my grandchildren without an hour-long qualifier about the history of American race relations, though.
I’m not so sure I’d call it racist. The black characters (and the animated animals) do speak in broad dialect. Does that make it racist? (Even if rural blacks of the era did actually speak in that dialect?)
I could be convinced, I guess. What, exactly, is racist about the movie?
That was my thought as well. I’m not sure “Look how happy those negroes are under slavery!” is significantly worse than, “Look how happy those negroes are under Jim Crow!” Although, I suppose Jim Crow technically post-dates Reconstruction. Either way, not a really great time to be a black person in the South.
Anyway, I don’t think the film itself is racist, but I understand why it’s problematic. An old black man, a former slave, who despite his hard life, still can feel a simple joy at just being alive can be used as a testament to the power and dignity of the human spirit - or it can be used to argue that things weren’t really so bad, if this old man can still be so happy. For a long time, characters struck from the same archetype as Uncle Remus were used to minimize and excuse the treatment of blacks in this country. It’s not surprising that a lot of people are unable to make the distinction between how that archetype was predominantly used in other media, versus how it was used in this particular film.
I think you’d have to show that they’re happy because they’re under Jim Crow to say the movie is racist.
I imagine that most slaves, sharecroppers, serfs, or whatever, most of the time, weren’t any more happy or sad than basically anyone of any walk of life, at any time in human history. For better or worse, people adjust to their situation. Yeah at times it will bother them that they’re getting the shaft for no logical reason under the sun, but then they get over it and go back to living. When it’s a holiday, they’re off from work, or they get to sit around telling tales to little kids, people are happy.