Wednesday, January 9, 2013

you want to know who lost world war z? the whales

I read an article on Slate the other day about the infamous Song of the South Disney movie, and it had a link to watch it on Youtube, so I did, because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  I love the Brer Rabbit stories, and have Joel Chandler Harris's complete Uncle Remus collection.  We had a tape of Song of the South when I was little and I listened to it all the time.  I realize that the whole Brer Rabbit oeuvre is problematic, and I hope liking those stories doesn't mean I'm a racist.  I just have always loved folktales and trickster myths.  I also grew up with the story of Little Black Sambo, and although the names of the characters are terrible, I don't think the story itself is racist.  I guess it shows my white privilege, but when my mom used to tell us the story and sing the songs the race of the characters was not something I ever thought about, and I didn't figure out that those names were rude until I got older and encountered nasty racist people.  I was simply impressed that a little boy was brave enough and clever enough to outsmart all those tigers, and loved the idea that tigers could turn into butter and be eaten with delicious pancakes. 

Anyway, there are definitely some gross, eye-rolling bits in that movie, but I've seen worse in movies that are not nearly as vilified.  And is Song of the South really vilified, or is Disney just being sensitive and careful?  Uncle Remus seems to be squarely in the middle of an Uncle Tom/Magical Negro role, but those roles are still all over the place--that doesn't excuse it, it just seems to be very arbitrary which movies are considered controversial.  On the whole, the black characters come out of it smelling like roses, and the white characters not so much.  The main antagonists are these horrible little hillbilly boys--white--who are dirty and rude and shove their sister in the mud and want to drown a puppy.  And Johnny's parents are awful. I actually started hissing when his mother came onscreen, she was such a horrible shrew.  

So I don't know.  The movie teaches a good message, and I can understand why James Baskett was given an honorary Oscar for it.  But being white, I don't think I get to say whether black people should or should not be offended by it.  I know I was pretty irritated that the black people were portrayed as being quite content to do all the work and live in sad little huts while the white people lazed around in fancy dresses in their mansion--why is idleness shown as a reward?  Why do parasites have more privileges than workers?  Sometimes I feel very like that Marxist Itchy and Scratchy cartoon on the Simpsons. 

I made kouign-amann over the holiday break, and it was not great.  I guess it takes more than once to master it.  Mine was more cakey than I wanted it to be--the one I got from the pastry shop was more of a croissantish thing, like a palmier.  But I don't know that I want to set out on a quest with this, because:  so fat.