By Jason Sperb
The Walt Disney corporation deals an enormous universe of films, tv exhibits, topic parks, and item, all conscientiously crafted to give a picture of healthy relations leisure. but Disney additionally produced probably the most notorious Hollywood motion pictures, Song of the South. utilizing sketch characters and dwell actors to retell the tales of Joel Chandler Harris, SotS portrays a kindly black Uncle Remus who tells stories of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and the "Tar child" to adoring white little ones. Audiences and critics alike stumbled on its depiction of African americans condescending and superseded while the movie opened in 1946, however it grew in popularity—and controversy—with next releases. even if Disney has withheld the movie from American audiences because the overdue Eighties, SotS has an enthusiastic fan following, and items of the film—such because the Oscar-winning "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"—remain all through Disney's media universe.
Disney's such a lot infamous Film examines the racial and convergence histories of Song of the South to supply new insights into how audiences and Disney have negotiated the film's controversies during the last seven a long time. Jason Sperb skillfully lines the film's reception background, displaying how viewers perceptions of SotS have mirrored debates over race within the better society. He additionally explores why and the way Disney, whereas embargoing the movie as an entire, has repurposed and repackaged parts of SotS so broadly that they linger all through American tradition, serving as every thing from cultural metaphors to customer products.
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Additional resources for Disney’s Most Notorious Film: Race, Convergence, and the Hidden Histories of Song of the South
At the same time, it would be inaccurate for at least two reasons to say that the historical context in which the film was produced somehow makes it more acceptable. For one, as I develop below, Song of the South’s stereotypes were already outdated by the time Disney made the film. As scholars such as Taylor have noted before, the 1930s may have seen a huge surge in the popularity of “the ‘Southern films’ . . ”27 These most prominently included musicals such as Bing Crosby’s Mississippi (1935) and the 1936 version of Show Boat, as well as dramas such as Gone with the Wind.
30 Most prominently, Southern and other conservative Democrats abandoned the party, believing that the Great Society betrayed their core beliefs about the lower social and economic status of African Americans, who should be left to take care of themselves. Republicans successfully played on a building sense of white lower- and middle-class resentment. They argued that the government treated blacks better than it treated whites—an astoundingly ignorant, but frighteningly effective, claim that conservatives continue to make to this day.
Meanwhile, the latter offer detailed critiques of problematic texts and moments of reception, but they can miss a film’s resiliency through both remediation and recirculation. Since nostalgia is such a dominant feature in remediation, racist images from the past will often follow. ”36 The comfort of appealing to the past, she argues, naturalizes the volatility of technological change in modern society. At the heart of shifts in newer media platforms, ironically, are often nostalgic appeals back to older existing properties, even racist ones, for a sense of aesthetic reassurance and creative stability within the new medium’s unfamiliarity.
Disney’s Most Notorious Film: Race, Convergence, and the Hidden Histories of Song of the South by Jason Sperb