Friday, July 1, 2011
Song of the South - Should It Be Released on DVD?
I am going to wade into the controversy of Song of the South, probably to my chagrin. However, I don’t know that you can discuss this film intelligently without speaking about Disney’s decision to keep it hidden away. So if you’ve made up your mind on the topic, quit reading now.
Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, recently stated that he had watched Song of the South again, and upon this new viewing he had decided that the material in the film was not suitable for modern audiences. I have two problems with that statement. First, I don’t know that I want Bob Iger deciding what is or is not suitable for me. Second, I don’t know what movie he was watching, but I think Song of the South is important for audiences to see.
The main complaints I have seen about the film are that it does not portray a realistic relationship between slaves and their owners in the South and that the African Americans in the film are stereotypical slave portrayals. Both of these things are absolutely true. However, they are both irrelevant to the question of whether people should see the film.
How is the portrayal of slaves in Song of the South any different than that in Gone With the Wind? If the issue is that of dialect or mannerisms, then why is Song of the South being singled out? There are dozens of films out there that feature slaves portrayed in the same way, yet there is not outcry when Gone With the Wind gets another DVD or Bluray release.
As for the issue of how plantation life is depicted in the film, it’s a valid point. I doubt that most plantations featured slaves who did nothing but sit around and tell stories. I also doubt that Uncle Remus would have gotten away with some of the things he does in the movie. That does not mean that we should not be able to see the portrayal, though.
As I stated in my review of the film, this is a turning point in the history of the Disney studio. It’s not a film that would be acceptable to mass audiences today, and I understand that. But the importance of the film should not be kept from Disney fans who want to connect with the history of the studio.
I will freely state that I am not African-American, so this does not affect me in the same way as those of you who have had to live through discrimination in your life. My stance on this is not to say that others who do not want the film released are wrong in their reasoning or emotion. My feeling, though, is that this movie should be available to those who want it.
It should not be a widely marketed release, an family movie or anything of that nature. Disney should be able to release the film digitally or through some kind of special DVD release that would allow them to place the film in its proper context. Do it tastefully, but release the film. I think if Disney explained it that way, that this was a way to keep the company’s history alive, not exploiting the actors or the situation for a quick buck, then it would be accepted.
What do you think?