Alongside the global pandemic of Coronavirus, another virus has swept the Western World. This is the virus of apologising for works of art (brands as well as comedy) that those around the boardroom tables have finally realised are racist, or at the very least could be perceived to be racist. This was done against the backdrop of the world collectively saying Black Lives Matter – following the well publicised murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA on May 25.
Floyd was not the first Black person to be killed by the police in 2020, but the presence of the video interrupting the daily briefings from the political leaders and our mundane lockdown timelines and on social media awakened people. Unlike other murders, this was one no one could ignore, regardless of what continent you were – race, colour or creed.
virtue signalling noun [ U ] UK (US virtue signaling) UK /ˈvɜː.tʃuː ˌsɪɡ.nəl.ɪŋ/ US /ˈvɝː.tʃuː ˌsɪɡ.nəl.ɪŋ/ an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media: Virtue signalling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favour for certain political ideas or cultural happenings.
Examples of the collective realisation (or some may say virtual signalling) include the following, but the list is not exhaustive:
Quaker Oats announcing the retirement of the Aunt Jemima brand – the fact people had issues with the image of a happy, smiling mammy aka an enslaved Black woman being used to sell products for over 150 years prior to this moment was ignored.
Mars announcing it will evaluate changing Uncle Ben’s brand image As a professional marketer, I am somewhat surprised that these brands have been steadfast in keeping hold of these brand elements for so long. It did make me question the brand values and consequently, they are brands I have never consumed as they didn’t sit well with me, and honestly what is the point of boil in the bag rice. When using a pot and water or rice cooker can
In addition Gone with the Wind (one of my all time favourite films) was pulled from HBO as it was felt it reinforced racist tropes (with a view to adding a warning that the film contains antiquated imagery). Once again the criticism of Gone with the Wind dates back to when the film was made so not sure why in big old 2020, people now view it as problematic. Tomes have been written about the treatment of Hattie McDaniel (the first Black woman to win an Oscar) as well as the representation of slavery and enslaved people on the silver screen.
This brings me onto the purpose of this post, so apologies for the long introduction. During my reading around how media owners respond to questions about racism, I was reminded of the controversial Disney film, Song of the South. It was Disney’s first live action/ animated film with a Black lead UNTIL The Princess and the Frog and premiered in 1946.
I consequently made it my mission to find this film, I had only watched once at an 80s primary school. But I do remember I liked it, and its signature song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, sung by James Baskett has endured for 74 years and counting.
I say a mission, because Disney has not re-released this film since the 80s, and it’s not on any streaming sites, including Disney+ (despite the remaining Disney back catalogue being on this platform). It was also unavailable on YouTube in its entirety, so I had to resort to other channels to find it. And find it I did