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Over 10,000 people have signed a petition that calls for Disney to re-theme its most popular ride, Splash Mountain, because of alleged racism.
Available for review here, the Change.org petition accuses the ride’s “history and storyline” of being “steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South.”
“While the rides storyline is not an exact version of the movies plot line it is derivative from it, the characters, the songs and locations are all main features of the ride,” the petition reads.
“Disney has removed Song of the South from its library, refusing to share it on DVD or their streaming services. The best next step to remove all traces of this racist movie would be to re-theme Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog themed ride.”
Why “The Princess and the Frog?” Because this recent 2009 musical’s main character was a black princess, and so re-theming the ride around it would enhance “diversity.”
the princess and the frog (2009)
disneys first black princess and we don’t praise the movie enough for how beautiful in all aspects it was pic.twitter.com/GloBw5lDXl
— kai (@hoeary) June 1, 2020
“There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need. Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks. Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much deserved place in the parks,” the petition continues.
“The framing of the ride is such that it could be easily changed to tell the story of Tiana while not compromising too much of the ride/costing a fortune in remodeling for Disney. This change could kill two birds with one stone, remove the offensive stereotypical theming the ride currently has and bring a much needed diversity to the parks. As well as a much bigger merchandising opportunity for Princess and the Frog.”
Complaints about “Song of the South” aren’t a product of just the ongoing cultural revolution but rather a continuation of a battle that’s been fought ever since the production of the film 74 years ago.
“Released the year after World War II ended, ‘Song of the South’ premiered in Atlanta, where the Civil War epic ‘Gone With the Wind’ made its debut a few years earlier,” the Philadelphia Tribune reported in a write-up last year.
“Set in post-Civil War Georgia, the Disney film featured stories that white newspaper writer Joel Chandler Harris heard from one-time slaves and published starting in 1876, according to The Wren’s Nest, Harris’ one-time home and now a museum in Atlanta.”
The stories were presented through “a mix of live action, cartoons and music featuring an old black plantation laborer named Uncle Remus who enchants a white city boy with fables of talking animals.”
See its original trailer below:
Over the decades, some have lambasted the film for containing black stereotypes and demeaning black people.
“There are plenty of examples of pernicious racism in Song of the South that are right there on the surface: the minstrelsy of the animated characters, particularly Br’er Fox; the slang in the dialogue; a wandering chorus singing traditional black songs; and, most notoriously of all, a fable where Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear use a tar baby to fool and ensnare Br’er Rabbit,” The Guardian complains.
“Yet the subtle low point of the film comes in Remus’s narration just before Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, when he reminiscences about how things were ‘a long time ago,,’ when ‘every day was mighty satisfactual’. ‘If you’ll excuse me for saying so,’ he adds, ’twas better all around.'”
Except “a long time ago” meant when main character Uncle Remus was a slave …
But others have pushed back on this rhetoric, including black members of the film’s own cast.
“If I had for one moment considered any part of the picture degrading or harmful to my people, I would not have appeared therein,” cast member Hattie McDaniel, who’d also starred in “Gone With The Wind,” reportedly said in a 1947 interview.
Co-star James Baskett, the man seen in the clip above playing Uncle Remus, concurred.
“I believe that certain groups are doing my race more harm in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the ‘Song of the South,'” he said.
A year later in 1948, Baskett became the first black male performer to ever receive an Oscar.
So which is it — is the film demeaning to blacks or is it not? It appears it depends entirely on interpretation. The film’s cast members certainly didn’t find it offensive, but they lived in an entirely different world where the ideas of being offended and cancelling history simply didn’t exist.
Rather, they lived in a world where bigotry, racism, segregation and Jim Crow weren’t just words in a university book or a Black Lives Matter screed.
They were real life:
Yet despite the bigotry they faced, they didn’t stew in resentment and hate but instead chose to embrace humility — and in doing so, they ensured their legacies would stick around forever.
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