Monday, 6 October 2014

Anansi Vs Brer Rabbit

Anansi the spider has cropped up repeatedly in the stories and tales we've explored during our Commonwealth Tales project. He's a classic example of the migration of stories, and in Anansi's case, stories that were originally native to Africa, crossed over into Caribbean and American culture as a direct result of the slave trade.

This is why Trickster Anansi shares many stories and wisdom with Brer Rabbit, so unsurprisingly, more than a few of us were reminded of the Disney film Song of the South - I remember very clearly this being one of the first films we watched in our enormous toploader video in the early eighties. I had a vague notion, that probably, the film was no longer available, like many old Disney films. What I did not realise was that its not available because it's banned. And it's banned because of the offensive way it presented a sort of idealised fictional Deep South in which plantation workers head off to "work" singing Zip A Dee Doodah. I'm pretty sure that went over my head when I was little, just like Mammy Two Shoes in Tom and Jerry did. But it doesn't make it okay. Worst bit of the Disney Song of the South story? Maybe that Uncle Remus actor James Baskett wasn't able to attend the premiere of the film because no hotel would put him up. Nice. Though if he'd actually managed to get over that hurdle, he'd likely have been made to sit at the back of the cinema anyway.

My favourite Uncle Remus Brer Rabbit story is The Laughing Place, We've retold the laughing place story in a slightly more sinister style for our Uncommon Tales comic, but here, unexpurgated is the version from Song of the South. We aren't sharing it because we think that banning Song of the South is "political correctness gone mad", because it isn't. However, my 8 year old not intentionally racist self, still has a soft spot for the song, enjoy contextually...

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