The LoneStarCon 3 Pocket Program hasn’t even been online an entire day and it’s already sparked a controversy.
Andrea Phillips sent two tweets after discovering a certain film on the schedule —
And just. Especially on the heels of the Beale “half-savage” garbage. Way to make fans of color feel freaking WELCOME, huh?
That’s a fascinating question. I’ve never seen Song of the South – Disney hasn’t re-released it since I was a toddler. But I’m certainly aware it has a reputation.
However, even the responses of African-American journalists at the time of its initial 1946 release ranged from loathing to wholehearted approval. Here are several examples from the Wikipedia —
While Richard B. Dier in The Afro-American was “thoroughly disgusted” by the film for being “as vicious a piece of propaganda for white supremacy as Hollywood ever produced,” Herman Hill in The Pittsburgh Courier felt that Song of the South would “prove of inestimable goodwill in the furthering of interracial relations.” Reviewing the negative aspects of the film, Ebony magazine considered such criticisms to be “unadulterated hogwash symptomatic of the unfortunate racial neurosis that seems to be gripping so many of our humorless brethren these days.”
The debate continues to the present day. Fred Patten recently reviewed two books about Song of the South with opposing points of view about its racist reputation –
Although very similar in subject matter, they are very different in theme. Disney’s Most Notorious Film, from the University of Texas Press and filled with scholarly footnotes, starts out with the preconception that Disney’s combination live-action/animation feature Song of the South, made in 1946 when Walt Disney was very much in charge of his studio, was a blatantly condescending racist film, an embarrassment that the studio has been trying to cover up while continuing to cash in on as much as possible. In other words, the book is an academic exposé. Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South?, by a longtime Disney studio employee and fan, argues that it is not racist, and that the Disney company should stop suppressing it today and release it on home video
Andrea Phillips, who raised the issue, is an award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author of A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling.
Update 08/21/2013: Song of the South has been pulled from the LSC3 schedule. The official announcement on the LSC3 animation program page explains —
August 21 – Statement re. Song of the South
LoneStarCon 3 had previously announced a presentation of Disney’s Song of the South, to be shown in conjunction with a talk about the period when the film was made, the historical reality of the time, and the changing perspectives of the film in the light of the Civil Rights movement.
We accept that while we fully intended to show the film in context, this was not adequately explained in the text published on our website and in our Pocket Program. Moreover, to continue showing the film in the light of the public concern expressed over the last few hours would send entirely the wrong messages about our event’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will therefore no longer be presenting this film as part of our program.
We got this wrong, and we apologize unreservedly to anyone who has been offended, concerned, or in any way been given cause to doubt the welcome that LoneStarCon 3 will extend to all of our members next week.