Does the phrase “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” mean anything to you? It does to me. I remember as a child seeing clips of this movie on television. I remember the an older black man with a beard; wearing overalls and a straw hat skipping down a cartoon looking street with computer images of butterflies and birds flying around his head. He would was skipping down the dirt road holding the hands of 2 white children singing the catchy tune:
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way
At that age I never really knew what he was talking about, and the computerized butterflies was kind of weird, but the tune was catchy and as I child I use to sing along with him.
The name of this movie is Song of the South. The setting is the Southern United States, shortly after the American Civil War. Seven-year-old Johnny is excited about what he believes to be a vacation at his grandmother’s Georgia plantation with his parents, John Sr. and Sally.
As Johnny sneaks away from the plantation, he is attracted by the voice of Uncle Remus, a black man who recites stories to the white children named Br’er Rabbit and Tar Baby (Yes Tar Baby). We all know how Tar Baby has been used by whites to stereotype our skin color; but supporters of the release of this movie don’t have a problem with that.
This movie is a prime example of how we are culturally conditioned to underestimate, undervalue and marginalized black people. I didn’t know what I was watching as a child, and I am not sure if my parents saw me watching it, but I am a man now.
Now Disney is thinking about reissuing Song of the South. It has not been shown in the United State since 1986, and is huge in Europe. The images of Uncle Remus who looks like a slave and speaking broken English telling old wise tales like Tar Baby, is a hit all over the world. There is even a fan website that has started an online petition to get the movie released in the United States. Supporters of the movie claim that it has nothing to do with negative stereotypes of black people but simply depicts an older mans kind and kid like heart, who loves to tell stories to children…………………yeah ok. I guess the Tar Baby clock pictured above was out of love and respect for black people……
If Song of the South is released, please use it as an educational tool to demonstrate how black people were potrayed as step and fetch it characters. Here is a little tid bit for you:
Perhaps lost in all the controversy over the film is the fact that James Baskett, a Black man, was the very first live actor ever hired by Disney. Allegedly, though, Baskett was unable to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta because no hotel would give him a room.