Partisanship, Who Needs It?

Partisanship, Who Needs It?

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The South Could Sing A Different Note

MSNBC reports on the issue of whether or not the 1956 Disney film "Song of the South should be re-released.


But the movie remains hidden in the Disney archives — never released on video in the United States and criticized as racist for its depiction of Southern plantation blacks. The film’s 60th anniversary passed last year without a whisper of official rerelease, which is unusual for Disney, but President and CEO Bob Iger recently said the company was reconsidering. The film’s reissue would surely spark debate, but it could also sell big. Nearly 115,000 people have signed an online petition urging Disney to make the movie available, and out-of-print international copies routinely sell online for $50 to $90, some even more than $100.

I grew up in the South and saw this film as a young child, seeing nothing wrong with it at that early age and not reconizing the signifigance of the issue involved at that time. Now, however I see how it could be taken in a negative sense, with its depictation of african-americans as happy servants and such. That being said, I see no reason to hide from history and try to pretend that it never happened, these things need to be brought out into the open to be seen and to be discussed. If "political correctness" is used to stifle discussion then the open mindedness that the PC movements wish to cultivate is swept under the rug with everything else.

What is needed is the re-release of this historic film, but it not need be released as is, this is a perfect opportunity to put it in its historic context. Imagine an opening commentary by a well respected black history specialist or a leader from the NAACP who could point out the good and questionable qualities of the film. Such an opportunity would be very informative and when placed along with the film itself provide a context that could easily be viewed. Instead of criticism of such a release, black leaders should work with Disney to capitalize on the opportunity and make the movie sing an all new tune in harmony with modern times.

But such commentary should not merely denounce any racist undertones of the film, but should also point out the films merits. The stories told for example were not the invention of slave owners, but of the slaves and former slaves themselves, and are as much a part of black history and heritage as the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and should be embraced as such, rather than being attacked as racist expressions. Yes "tar baby" can be incredibly racist and insensitive, but it is not such of its own accord, just by its usage. So when Uncle Remus tells his tales in the movie, he is not promoting racism, but instead demonstrating how intelligence can overcome a difficult problem as in the case of the briar patch as opposed to how unthinking reaction will get you deeper into trouble as in the part about of the tar baby, lessons that trancend the rascist backdrop of the era.

We must take the good and seperate it from the bad in our own minds, and use the thoughful commentary of experts to aid in this. Should we sweep everything under the rug, we lose much history and heritage and lose the chance to learn from the past, as a lesson is to be learned from both its good and bad points.

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