Sociological Concepts in Disney's "Song of the South" Analytical Essay by elbeasel

Sociological Concepts in Disney's "Song of the South"
A discussion on the concepts of prejudice, racism, and class conflict as portrayed in the Walt Disney film "Song of the South".
# 153922 | 0 words | 0 sources | 2014 | US

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From the Paper:

"With the Civil Rights movement apparently settled and the blatant wrongs of separate but equal fading into the past, Disney- the most family friendly of all entertainment companies- would seemingly be the last place to find a piece of our segregated history. However, buried in the footnotes of Walt Disney filmmaking history is a film titled ""Song of the South"", based on the stories of author Joel Chandler Harris. Released in 1946, the story tells the tale of a young boy who arrives on his grandmother's pre-Civil War plantation and befriends an elderly slave called Uncle Remus. While the manifest function of the story is very much in keeping with the Disney ethos, the latent dysfunction of the film is a glimpse into a society that marginalizes anyone who is not a part of the dominant culture. When viewed through the lens of symbolic interactionism, not only do scenes in the movie depict how deeply entrenched stereotypical notions of African Americans, women, and the poor were, the existence of the movie itself and the company's subsequent efforts to dismiss it show how damaging prejudicial portrayals of less favored populations truly are.
"Early in the film, the viewer sees young Johnny as his family arrives at the family plantation. As the carriage arrives, a young slave chases after the family and grabs hold to ride to the front door. As the family begins to speak, there is a studied mid-western interpretation of a genteel Southern dialect. However, when any of the slaves speak, they use an exaggerated negro dialect. In fact, actor James Baskett who played Uncle Remus was criticized for his use of such an over exaggerated form of speech. The speech patterns used by the actors were far from coincidental. The importance of language in culture is difficult to ignore. One pair of researchers, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf postulated that "rather than objects and events forcing themselves onto our consciousness, it is our language that determines our consciousness, and hence our perception of objects and events (Henslin 2013)." This concept can be applied to the speech patterns used in the movie to differentiate slaves and owners. Without even listening to the dialogue in the movie, it is easy to determine what social class the characters belong to. The dialect and word usage of the characters effects the perception of the audience of who these characters are.
"Not only is there a different speech pattern between races in the movie, there is also a difference in the speech patterns of wealthy and poor white characters in the movie. Early in the movie, wealthy Johnny encounters a poor family that lives near the plantation. Jake and Joe Favers and their sister Ginny are depicted living in a shanty type shack, and their speech patterns are dramatically different than those of Johnny's wealthy family. The filmmakers decision to assign speech patterns that would be characterized as uneducated and low-class demonstrates the concept called the "culture of poverty"."

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