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Disney's Most Notorious Film

Race, Convergence, and the Hidden Histories of Song of the South

By Jason Sperb

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book is dedicated to understanding the lost ideals, disturbing truths, and hard facts underlying the histories of Disney’s most notorious film. I wish to state upfront that I empathize with the more skeptical, even resistant, Disney fan. In many ways, I was a member of the company’s key ...

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pp. xi-xiii

I did not think it would take so long to write another book. But perhaps that’s just as well. I’ve learned to appreciate the opportunity more. And I’ve learned to better value the people who’ve stood with me the whole way. Any appreciation for this book must begin with my former ...

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pp. 1-36

Hollywood history is littered with racist artifacts. Yet not all have vanished for good, and their occasional endurance can tell us just as much about industry practices and racial relations in the present as in the since-forgotten time in which they were first made. Disney’s ...

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One. Conditions of Possibility

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pp. 37-61

Among such sources today as conservative film criticism and general fan discourses, the most often repeated popular platitude regarding the film’s racism is that Walt Disney’s Song of the South was from a different time, and thus must be accepted within the historical context of ...

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Two. “Put Down the Mint Julep, Mr. Disney ”

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pp. 62-85

R. E. Bowles noted in a 1946 letter to the Post that Song of the South’s debut was generating heated responses in the pages of numerous newspapers. Despite the film’s own claims to “simple truths,” Song of the South, he or she wrote, was generating a wide range of critical reactions to its theatrical ...

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Three. “Our Most Requested Movie”

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pp. 86-123

In A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, Robert Ray noted a “right cycle” movement in the 1970s.1 This included both new reactionary films, such as Dirty Harry (1971), and the recirculation of older films, such as Disney’s Song of the South, from Hollywood’s so-called golden ...

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Four. A Past That Never Existed

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pp. 124-157

Song of the South found a second life after a long theatrical disappearance in the late 1950s and throughout the subsequent decade. By 1972, the fi lm reappeared, this time to the kind of success that would continue for the next fi fteen years. Despite being the last decade in which it appeared ...

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Five. On Tar Babies and Honey Pots

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pp. 158-199

In her study of “polycentric” texts in contemporary media, Angela Ndalianis inverts the hierarchical connotations usually associated with such transmedia franchises as Star Wars (1977), Jurassic Park (1993), and The Matrix (1999). Often, films are repurposed through ancillary media—television ...

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Six. Reassuring Convergence

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pp. 200-226

With its last theatrical appearance now nearly thirty years past, and with no full-length home video versions ever released in the United States, it is tempting to talk of Song of the South in the past tense. A fan petition for its rerelease in 2007 was resisted by Disney, which said proper historical ...

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pp. 227-235

At various conferences in the last six or seven years, I have given presentations that touched on different aspects of my research into the histories of Disney’s most notorious film. In each case, I was greeted with the same dawning awareness of Song of the South I mentioned in the introduction. Many ...


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pp. 235-237


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pp. 239-260

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 261-268


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pp. 269-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780292739758
E-ISBN-10: 0292739753
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292739741
Print-ISBN-10: 0292739745

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Song of the South (Motion picture).
  • Walt Disney Productions.
  • Race relations in motion pictures.
  • African Americans in motion pictures.
  • Stereotypes (Social psychology) in motion pictures.
  • Motion picture audiences -- United States.
  • Convergence (Telecommunication).
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