Is racism in Disney movies something that should be ignored and swept under the rug? Disney+ launched with its coveted vault of more than 500 old-time favorites. But, controversial films have been left out; critics wonder if it is the right move.
Exploring an Old Controversial Film by Disney
In 1964, Disney came out with "Song of the South." It was openly boycotted and protested upon the call of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The film never made it to DVD in the U.S. To no surprise, "Song of the South" is also absent from Disney+. Disney CEO Bob Iger previously explained that releasing the film is not in their shareholders' best interest.
Further, the Disney executive agreed that the film "would not sit or feel right to several people today."
What was the Film About?
In a nutshell, "Song of the South" wrongly depicted an image of a happy African American slave. One of the characters, Uncle Remus, was a plantation worker who met a white boy named Johnny.
The characters fast became friends as Uncle Remus comforted Johnny as he struggled with his parents' separation. The former slave continued to live in the plantation where he told Johnny of African folk tales where the characters would magically come to life.
The film was an adaptation of "Uncle Remus Stories" by Chandler Harries. The stories had been stolen from the slaves on his family's plantation. As such, the film ended with Johnny taking the stories and magic for himself and leaving Uncle Remus on the plantation.
Uncle Remus was the earliest depiction of the "Magical Negro" character. The character was purposely made to help overcome the white protagonist's issues. Another character that showed racism in Disney movies is Aunt Tempy in "Mammy," a jovial Black female servant who attended hand and foot to white people.
Racism in Movies for Discussion in Documentaries
Films like "Song of the South" could still be present on Disney+ with educational commentary from historians, provided it is on parental lock.
Pop-up notes and mini-documentaries can also be included for discussion before and after the film. Discussion about these films may pave the way growth and healing, NBC News reported.
Disney Fans Protest "Song of the South" Ride
Fans, along with some Disney employees, call for a change in the theme of the Splash Mountain ride. As it stands, the famous Disney ride is based on "Song of the South."
An online petition requested that the Disney ride be re-themed into "The Princess and the Frog" Disney movie featuring the first Black princess of Disney, Tiana, NBC Boston reported.
"Diversity is much needed in the parks," reads the petition. The petitioners wish to have the offensive stereotypical-themed ride removed while minimizing the costs for Disney to remodel the popular ride.
Such calls for change came amid the death of George Floyd. There have been protests all over the world after the controversial issue. It is not just police brutality but also racial injustice that stirred the hearts of the masses.
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