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Racialicious on Princely Tails

6 Mar

The Racialicious blog has excellent commentary on a series of beefcake, racialized images of Disney princes. Some are kinda NSFW.

Having read and pondered the commentary, I feel a little disquieted linking to them, not entirely comfortable with spreading the meme. And at the same time, if we don’t look at it, we can’t talk about it. I’ve got a copy of Song of the South in my DVD library for just that reason, despite my queasiness about the possibility of Disney ever releasing it commercially again.

Disney Movie Club on Black History Month

25 Feb

Like many a Disney fanatic, I’m a member of the Disney Movie Club. And most of the time, it’s strangely fun and comforting to page through the monthly mailings, with ads for movies like Stub: The Best Cowdog in the West and Donald in Mathamagic Land. (A gold star to you if you can guess which of those movies I actually do own!)

But once a year, the mailings really irk me. And when would that be? February, which is not only the shortest month of the year but also Black History Month.

Disney has some odd ideas about what it means to celebrate “Black History.” Sure, I can see the relevance of Selma Lord Selma or even Glory Road. But Twitches? The Haunted Mansion? Jump In? I would no more consider these representation of Black History  than I would consider American Pie or Fast Times at Ridgemont High to be representations of White History, whatever that is.

And you see, this is my problem with Black History Month: It encourages us to think about Black History as separate from American History, or “our” History, whoever “we” are if we’re not Black. And that implies an “us” and a “them” which I’m not particularly comfortable with. What is there in Black History that is not also my history? What is there in Women’s History that does not also belong to my son and husband? And what is this apparently “regular” history which we’re distinguishing it from?

Selma isn’t Black History…it happened to all of us, affects the world in which all of us live today. So did the Nineteenth Amendement. And the American Civil War, and the Great Depression, and the fall of Troy.

Think I’m crazy? Listen to what Morgan Freeman has to say about Black History Month.

Now, I understand that from a pragmatic point of view, Black History Month might just ensure that a few schoolkids learn about the Tuskegee Airmen, or Loving v. Virginia, or any number of events in our collective history that have been segregated out of the curriculum. But in my crusty old leftist heart, I can’t help hoping that someday we could truly integrate the curriculum. I’ve seen it done, albeit on relatively small scales, and when it works, it’s beautiful.

Now, if you’re determined to celebrate Black History Month and want a Disney movie to focus on, might I suggest tracking down a bootleg copy of Song of the South? Especially if you yourself are not African American, this film can provide an interesting jumping-off place for a discussion of the unfortunate stereotypes and dynamics that color our collective past, and still exist today, though perhaps in modified and sometimes lesser forms.

And hey, if you watch The Haunted Mansion or Jump In! right after Song of the South, you’ll probablynotice some genuine changes in the way that people of color are represented. So maybe there’s good cause for a filmfest after all. Just don’t go thinking you’re gonna get me to watch Twitches Too in the name of history or civil rights.

Uncle Remus, Uncle Ben, and Don Imus

16 Apr

Mr Broke Hoedown, aka Collateral Damage, has a piece in Brandweek today about race, advertising, Don Imus, and Uncle Remus.

If marketers really insist on bringing these images back, they should begin with full disclosure and show where these characters came from, how they were used and why they’re being brought back. Barring that, then Ben, Jemima, Betty, Remus and that nameless guy on the Cream of Wheat box should follow Mr. Imus off the air.

Should Disney Re-release Song of the South?

25 Mar

The interweb’s on fire with discussions about a potential re-release of Song of the South. Bob Iger makes a small comment at the Disney shareholders’ meeting (AP News), and the world turns upside down. The Disney Blog just brought my attention to a particularly hateful discussion thread about the AP article above, which ran in the Orlando Sentinel.

If Disney does choose to re-release Song of the South, I have little faith that any commentary or analysis they provide could possibly give sufficient context to this film. So, anti-racist activists like myself may well have to refresh and expand our knowledge of slavery, to educate ourselves and those around us. One cannot understand how hurtful and destructive the stereotypes perpetrated by this film are without understanding what slavery was, and how deeply our country is still injured by it.

From Wikipedia:

Slavery is a social-economic system under which certain persons — known as slaves — are deprived of personal freedom and compelled to perform labour or services. The term also refers to the status or condition of those persons, who are treated as the property of another person or household. Slaves are held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase, or birth, and are deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to receive compensation in return for their labour. As such, slavery is one form of unfree labour.

People often talk about some owners being “good” to their slaves. What part of holding people against their will, depriving them of the right to leave or even to compensation, can possibly be called “good?”

Darn good thing that slavery is a thing of the past, right? Well . . . the BBC might have a few things to say about that in their series, Slavery Today.

Still, people will continue to clamor for Disney to re-release Song of the South. You can get the European release on eBay, and anybody with a bittorrent client’s already downloaded it anyway.

Here’s what I’d like to see: Disney grants ownership of Song of the South to Amnesty International, with proceeds from any re-release earmarked for anti-racist work and fighting modern-day slavery worldwide. I’d trust AI to provide commentary and context, and if I chose to purchase the DVD I’d know that the money would support social justice. Heck, it might even make me feel better about riding Spash Mountain again.

What’s More Offensive: Aladdin or Song of the South?

17 Sep

Entertainment Weekly Online has published EW’s list of the Top 25 Most Controversial Movies Ever. Disney’s 1992 Aladdin is listed at spot #23

I was surprised by many of the omissions from the list . Where was Cruisin’, which brought out protesters in droves to voice their opposition to its stereotypes of gay sadomasochistic murder? How about Hail Mary, which my then-roommate George and I ran to see in a hurry, after hearing that nuns were picketing the theatre in their outrage over a sensual solo scene of the Virgin Mary? Where was Song of the South, which Disney periodically reassures the public they won’t release on DVD, given its deeply disturbing racial stereotypes?

Surely any of these three was more controversial than Aladdin, which made repairs to its offensive lyrics (though I’ll admit there are still some cringe-worthy moments) and has subsequently spawned two sequels with little if any public outcry. You don’t see Disney planning Song of the South 2, do you?

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