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Truth In Disney's 'Song'

January 04, 1987

Yale professor James Snead seems not so much to mind the re-issue of Disney's "Song of the South" as he minds the failure of studio officials to re-write the thing "featuring a black character fighting for heroic goals" (" 'Song' Not Ended for Disney," Dec. 27).

Such a movie could be made, of course--though just how "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" would fit into the score is not clear; but then the Disney people would not have a re-issue, but a new movie, "Song of the South II."

OK. I saw the 1946 release and I considered it then, as I consider it now, one of the most poignant, entertaining movies in a childhood spent at the movies; and I am glad that the movie is being re-issued for my children and my children's children to see.

Sure, the movie is based on lies and myths and half-truths, as all movies are. But are Disney's lies and myths necessarily less accurate than Snead's lies and myths?

Is it any more true to say that there were no benevolent whites and that all blacks suffered in the Old South than it is to claim that blacks were happy-go-lucky and massah was kindly? I don't believe that seeing "Song of the South" as a child warped my later views on slavery.

The truth is, the black man was dragged here in chains and has since been beaten with those chains just for being here. It is an ugly truth, and I am glad that I had Disney's myth to enjoy as a child (I cannot remember how "truthful" I thought it was at the time).


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