Song of the South is Racist as Much for What it Doesn’t Show as What it Does

Continuing the discussion from American Civil War: questions from a Canadian:

An example of this: the main Protagonist Kid (poor little rich kid whose daddy own’s the plantation, even as he is supposedly troubled by debt) has a birthday party.

PK has two friends at least (other children) who get a decent amount of screen time: one is a White Girl, the other a Black Boy. One of the minor conflicts of the movie is whether it is appropriate for PK to invite WG, who is from a poor family of lower class whites, to PK’s birthday party. Of course PK wants her to come, and so she is invited and does attend. She wears a nice dress for the occasion and fits right in.

But you know who they don’t even talk about inviting, never even as a suggestion? BB. It’s like, on the one hand, Disney thought that by including a close-ish black friend and also showing poor white people without the kind of power the landed class had, the film was being “totally not racist.” But then didn’t consider what it says about the film that WG gets invited to PK’s party, while BB doesn’t, and in fact it’s not even a suggestion. In fact, none of the many black children who appear in the film are at the birthday party: all the guests are white.

But when PK does something stupid and gets knocked out by livestock (a bull, I think?) guess who all is at the window singing and praying for their little white PK (master’ son) to get better? Why all the black people who live and work on the plantation, of course!

Slavery or not, the message is clear: black people’s lives revolve around the white household, to the extent that PK’s loss would be their loss, but even though it’s perhaps acceptable for their children to be seen skipping down the street with PK, an invitation to PK’s birthday party is right out. And it’s obviously not because they’re poor: otherwise, why did WG get an invitation? And yet all of this is framed as a good thing, not questioned by the film.

Song of the South is one of those films whose racism is in its absence as much as anything else.

What absence? Of course it doesn’t show the racist environment it was set any viewer would have to live in a vacuum or be racist in some way to miss that.

I think the OP’s point is that things that aren’t happening to black people can be as indicative of racism as things that are happened. But the things that aren’t happening are more difficult to see.

If a black family has a cross burnt in their yard, that’s a pretty undeniable sign of racism. But if you have a town with no black families living in it, that may also be a sign of racism. But the second is a lot easier to overlook.

So… large swathes of the viewing audience at the time? You’re basically just re-stating the problem.

In other words, it is precisely those sort of people (living in a vacuum, or just straight up racist already) that I think SotS was targeted towards, and it not only did nothing to confront their racism (or ignorance), but actually reinforced the fantasy that they imagined for what life was like on southern plantations. Which is a kind of racism of its own.

and the recent book banning/censorship is trying to reinstate that same reality denying for whites so 'they don’t feel guilty"

I grew up in the '50s, and even in NY the reaction would be “of course BB is not invited. That’s the way things are.” And we’d not think of it as racist. Burning crosses and lynching were racist. That my elementary school, 3 blocks from the Black neighborhood (and the dividing line was clear) had one Black student was not considered racist either. Or much thought about by kids.

Which means no racism is shown. Yes, Disney is not gonna show bad stuff in one of their kids films. Just like we get a happy ending for little mermaid, and no gross stuff for the stepsisters in Cinderella.

Yes, there was a lot of racism bad then- but not every film has to show it.

No, it means there was no overt racism shown. There was plenty of racism shown.

I disagree. I have read the book- have you?

The book?

Do you mean the Joel Chandler Harris books? Did they even have the framing story about the kid moving to a plantation while his parents are separated?

No, in the book Uncle Remus told the stories to a unnamed seven year old boy whose family owned the plantation.

Is it racist for the recent trend of WW2 movies having black characters just be part of the cast and not bringing it up how rare this would be? Like specifically it’s 1944 Europe pre-Battle of the Bulge and for some reason you got a random black soldier as part of an American infantry squad?

And I’m not talking stuff like Dirty Dozen or Captain America where the squad is multiethnic because they’re thrown together with prisoners or whoever they had on hand.

I mean you’re free to be offended if you feel you must. Maybe start some protests?

I knew an asshole who was deeply offended when, in Michael Bay’s shitty Pearl Harbor movie, a black man was depicted manning an anti aircraft gun. He got disgruntled when I pointed out that Dorie Miller was a real person.

The book I mentioned in the other thread- Who is Afraid of Song of the South, by Jim Korkis the Disney expert and prolific author.

I was bemused by the appalling lack of smoking. I don’t usually get too bent out of shape with historical inaccuracies but sometimes it gets to me. Mel Gibson’s The Patriot really threw me off when the British came to his plantation and his black, employees I guess, told the evil British officer that they were free men not slaves. On the other hand it doesn’t bother me the least in a show like Bridgerton or The Great which are essentially historical fantasies.

Yeah, but the conversation I was reading and following in this thread was about the movie.

The book tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the film.

I’d still rather talk about the film itself instead of that one book you are pushing, if you don’t mind.