Recommended: Song of the South Gets Surprisingly Timely Study From You Must Remember This

Song of the South You Must Remember This Podcast Karina Longworth Disney

Karina Longworth’s always excellent You Must Remember This podcast returns this week to examine Song of the South, a film from Disney’s legendary “vault” that many people would prefer to keep there.

Few born after the 1980s have seen the full 1943 film, a mix of cartoons and live-action that imagines an idyllic post-Civil War plantation. It features “magical Negro” archetype Uncle Remus (James Baskett), who tells a white child stories about animals that, in Longworth’s incisive reading, reinforce the racial status quo.

Also read: Dolemite Is My Name Has 7 Essential Rules for Moviemakers

In the first episode, Longworth disproves any notion that the film is a product of its time that is being harshly judged by the standards of today’s cancel culture.

As she explains, the film’s perpetuation of racist myths—including that some black people preferred slavery to freedom—was mocked and criticized even in 1943. The NAACP wrestled at the time with whether to take on the film directly, or adopt a moderate stance in hopes of a seat at the table in future Hollywood discussions of race.

There’s a case to be made that Song of the South may be more insidious than outright racist propaganda: It presents itself as a celebration of color-blindness. But it perpetuates images of servile black people content to be second-class citizens.

As Longworth explains, Song of the South‘s messy racial legacy has kept it from ever getting a home video release. (The film did get two theatrical re-releases in the 1980s.) Needless to say, it won’t be available on the new Disney+ streaming service.

Also read: In the Coppola-Marvel Debate, Consider That Mario Puzo Wrote Both The Godfather and Superman

You Must Remember This also makes a compelling case that with Song of the South, Walt Disney was trying to mimic the success of the 1939 blockbuster Gone With the Wind, another film that perpetuates ugly and harmful stereotypes.

Listen and subscribe to You Must Remember This here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.