"The art of cartooning is vulgarity," Bakshi asserts.
January 6, 2008 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Coonskin. In 1975, animator Ralph Bakshi made a film, Coonskin, that so impressed the Museum of Modern Art that they immediately set up a special screening, causing Al Sharpton to lead the Congress of Racial Equality in surrounding the building in protest.

Roger Ebert responded in surprise to the controversy, saying "What's going on here? It seems to me a fairly interesting movie (with a skillful and innovative mixture of animation and stylized live action) is being used as an philosophical Ping-Pong ball. Dozens of black exploitation films open every year, all of them freely using racial stereotypes and all of them heavy with sex and violence. But they aren't ambitious movies--they're intended only to kill an hour or two. Now comes 'Coonskin,' an attempt to do something really provocative and (God help us! ) even artistic, and suddenly it's the target in an ideological shooting gallery."

But the Village Voice was less kind, saying the film was "the product of a crippled hand and a paralyzed mind." The films was dropped by its distributor and didn't really find an audience until it was released, with several new names, on home video.

The film is a difficult piece of satire, mocking the conventions of Blaxploitation and deliberately borrowing images from America's racist imagination. But it's origins are in the folk tales of Uncle Remus, the tradition of the toast, the writings of Chester Himes, and Yoruba imagery. Additionally, the soundtrack is by the superlative Chico Hamilton. Richard Pryor, Spike Lee, and the Wu Tang Klan have all sung the film's praises. But why not see it for yourself and decide (YouTube links):

Part one; part two; part three; part four; part five; part six; part seven; part eight; part nine; part ten.
posted by Astro Zombie (51 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. I was going to compare this to Bakshi's Street Fight but they're apparently the same movie. Never knew.

I've always wanted to cover the Scatman Crothers "Walk on Nigger" but never can, however great the song is. Nope. Not allowed.

My favorite line (and I'm paraphrasing through 15 years haze): It was then Brother Bear made a living beating up other brothers."--In reference to the amateur boxing industry. Broke my heart.

In times of desperation I still cry "I see you Lord, but do you see me?"
posted by sourwookie at 1:18 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh boy. Don't get me started on Bakshi. The stories about that guy are legion- one of my favorites revolves around a hooker, a hideously clogged toilet and a production assistant armed with a plastic fork. He's sort of a ... 'character', you might say.
posted by maryh at 1:22 AM on January 6, 2008

Great post, cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:50 AM on January 6, 2008

One's curiosity is piqued, maryh.
posted by wsg at 1:54 AM on January 6, 2008

Yeah, you can't hint at stories like that and not tell them. :)
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:17 AM on January 6, 2008

When I saw this, it was called Street Fight.

It's about as entertaining as Bakshi's other work*, which is to say that it's completely incoherent and will put you to sleep. Lots of weird, oozy pre-rotoscope animation. Think Fritz The Cat plus blaxploitation.

* outside of American Pop, which actually is an inspired and heartbreaking masterpiece.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:28 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Great post, AZ!

As your Coonskin link article opens with a lengthy segment on the hilariously over-the-top-foulmouthed comic, Rudy Ray Moore (aka Dolemite), I thought I'd take this opportunity to link to some Rudy Ray (I thought about doing an FPP on him a while back, but haven't gotten around to it). He's had a long career, releasing comedy records and acting, and here's some of his more recentstandup. The old man's just as dirty as ever! NOTE: language NSFW.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:29 AM on January 6, 2008

Wow, I had never seen that before. I didn't even intend to watch it all toni...uh, this morning. I found the story to be unusually coherent and focused for Bakshi (which is not really saying much; storytelling has never exactly been his strong suit. He sucks at it, really) and it's stylistically stunning. The satire is keen - as I was watching I wondered what Spike Lee thought of it, and was unsurprised to find out he's a fan, and was also not surprised that Leonard Maltin compared it to Bamboozled. It's not exactly a total success, but I have a newfound appreciation for Mr. Bakshi, which I'm sure will only grow stronger and fonder when MaryH tells us all the story about the hooker, the hideously clogged toilet, and the production assistant armed with a plastic fork.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:49 AM on January 6, 2008

I never heard of this, and ergo you are my goddamn hero. Come get your waffles.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:11 AM on January 6, 2008

It should be mentioned that the NAACP actually endorsed Coonskin. Not unreservedly, but apparently they liked its skewering of the blacksploitation genre.

Personally, I've got a love/hate relationship with Bakshi. On the one hand his stuff is usually a horrible mixture of low production values, bad direction, and beat you over the head with it moralizing. On the other hand, sometimes its genuinely fun to watch. On the third hand his Lord of the Rings cartoons were just plain awful.
posted by sotonohito at 3:43 AM on January 6, 2008

Hot damn, this is all news to me -- fascinating. Super cool post.
posted by undule at 4:13 AM on January 6, 2008

I think Bakshi is one of those "arthouse" and "underground" artists that has a cult following but doesn't possess any actual talent. (see also: Alan Rudolph). The animation is pedestrian and the stories are deadly dull and unwatchable. Seems like he needed cheap shocks with movies like this to get an audience.
posted by zardoz at 4:32 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've long heard about this, but never even come remotely close to seeing a copy before today. It's like Song of the South for hippies.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:09 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: the pot of heroin at the end of the rainbow
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:10 AM on January 6, 2008

I''ve just been watching the first part of Heavy Traffic on You Tube. There's a shot of a place called 'Hilly's on the Bowery'. Was this the predecessor to CBGB's?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:48 AM on January 6, 2008

It's a good morning for movies here on mefi.
posted by caddis at 7:01 AM on January 6, 2008

On the third hand his Lord of the Rings cartoons were just plain awful.

Agreed, but I loved Wizards as a kid. Not sure if that would still hold true.
posted by itchylick at 7:17 AM on January 6, 2008

I think Bakshi is one of those "arthouse" and "underground" artists that has a cult following but doesn't possess any actual talent. (see also: Alan Rudolph). The animation is pedestrian and the stories are deadly dull and unwatchable. Seems like he needed cheap shocks with movies like this to get an audience.

Bakshi is of a small, heavily self-centric group of talented animators who have slipped into a very faulty line of thinking about animation: that the fact you can do pretty much anything in cartoon means you should, and by being a cartoon it's automatically awesome. His last major feature work was Cool World, which was inarguably one of the worst things ever put to celluloid (even before the massive rewrites to Bakshi's objections), and the only reason it was even allowed to be made was the stupid idea that you can take an abysmal plot, horrible pacing, awful dialogue, and crap acting, but if you make all of that in cartoon form then people will love it...... yeah, so we're thinking no.

I've met Bill Plympton and I think he sometimes falls into this line of thinking, but he gets away with it because he has great writing and story talent. Bakshi just doesn't. He simply thinks "you know what'd be awesome? A cartoon ______ doing _____," and then he just does it, and expects you to love it because it's a cartoon.

Another perfect example of this is John Krikfalusi (creator of Ren & Stimpy), who to this day fails to understand the painfully obvious reason why the scatalogical, barely-comprehensible tributes to Tex Avery on crystal meth he creates are loved by pretty much no one. Now as an artist you have the right to do whatever you want just for your own enjoyment, but you don't have the right to complain why everyone else on earth sucks and doesn't understand your brilliance.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:22 AM on January 6, 2008 [5 favorites]

MaryH, I never knew that you could get storytelling blue balls, but now that I have them could you please relieve my pain?
posted by Deathalicious at 8:56 AM on January 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd mark that as a potentially deeply offensive comment, Deathalicious, except that this is a Bakshi thread. Somehow, in that context, it seems perfectly appropriate.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2008

Except, XQUZYPHYR, for the fact that Ren & Stimpy totally rules.
posted by Roach at 9:29 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

John Krikfalusi (creator of Ren & Stimpy), who to this day fails to understand the painfully obvious reason why the scatalogical, barely-comprehensible tributes to Tex Avery on crystal meth he creates are loved by pretty much no one.

No one. Except for forty bazillion Ren & Stimpy fans.
posted by jonmc at 9:36 AM on January 6, 2008

Let's hear it, maryh.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:38 AM on January 6, 2008

i like ren & stimpy.
posted by ericbop at 9:48 AM on January 6, 2008

For a little background, keep in mind that the Fritz the Cat movie was so bad that R. Crumb killed off the character as a response.

American Pop, on the other hand, was an underrated classic, in my opinion. Bakshi definitely has a problem with storytelling, but American Pop actually has a compelling and emotionally-engaging narrative.


Interesting that someone here would mention Bamboozled. I actually saw it just the other night. A good movie, for the most part. I liked it up until the last half hour, where everybody gets killed. The murder sequences turned a smart and poignant comedy into a heavy-handed morality play. After the bloodbath, the comical voice-over narration seems grossly inappropriate. Besides, the fate of the characters was completely out-of-keeping with their roles in the movie. How come Man Ray's business partner got to live and Man Ray died? Man Ray was definitely the more sympathetic of the two. Also, it pained me to see Jada Pinkett Smith's character go from smart, successful woman to crazed, gun-wielding lunatic. I wish they could have just cut out the murder sequences and went straight to the well-concieved-and-executed ending montage.

All told, a good movie that, like nearly every other film made in the last 15 years, would have been better off had they cut a half hour from it's running time. What was it that Hitchcock said about how movies should be timed to the carrying capacity of the human bladder?

posted by Afroblanco at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2008

Astounding post. I always enjoyed Bakshi's work, with the exception of Cool World and Lord of the Rings, although there were parts I enjoyed, they were pretty dismal.
I find that most people that criticize Bakshi have little to no understanding of the animation industry, and fail to realize that his films aren't for everyone. Most of his films were made, on a piss poor budget, and are largely hit or miss. That being said, they have a great deal more integrity than the other 90% of toothless animated drivel that gets churned out every year. Coonskin came out in 1975, and here we are still talking about it, and it's creator. Bakshi tried to make films that weren't kiddie oriented, politically correct, or insulting to the intelligence.

As for John K., I don't know too many people who don't enjoy his cartoons. Actually if you were to check out Krikfalusi's blog he frequently sings the praises of other animators and their styles. It is just the contemporary animation industry, and it's lack of artistry/originality he has a problem with.
posted by onkelchrispy at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2008

I'm not talking about Nickelodeon's Ren & Stimpy; I'm talking about the other 99% of his work that encompasses his portfolio, such as The Ripping Friends, George Goddamn Liquor, Weekend Pussy Hunt, Jimmy the Idiot, and the abortion that was the Spike TV version of Ren & Stimpy where he was given creative control and decided to make Ren and Stimpy gay lovers.

If you want to defend Krikfalusi by noting the one project he did that was quality that also happened to have editors, fellow producers, and other creative instruction demanding a quality product, to a degree that he fought so harshly he ended up having his own show taken away from him after the second season, you sort of proved my point.

I wasn't actually thinking Ren & Stimpy when I mentioned "scatalogical, barely-comprehensible tributes to Tex Avery on crystal meth" but since everyone else did I guess that just adds to the testament to his lack of depth.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:18 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually if you were to check out Krikfalusi's blog he frequently sings the praises of other animators and their styles.

I do read John K's blog; he doesn't frequently sing the praises of other animators and styles; he frequently sings the praises of classic Warner Bros. animation styles. That's all well and good, as those were brilliant and dynamic stlyes, but it's the only thing he cares about and he, often rudely, dismisses much other animations as shit. He doesn't like the idea that a badly-animated cartoon can still be a great cartoon for other reasons (see: half of all the shows on Adult Swim) and yet he's in complete denial that he makes cartoons himself that are quite often very well-animated pieces of shit.

It was interesting how when I said John K. does bad stuff a lot of people suddenly said "well I love Ren & Stimpy." So do I. But a lot of people love The Simpsons, and Family Guy, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and the Venture Bros., and South Park, and every single one of these shows Krikfalusi has whined about how much he thinks they suck.

I'm not arguing that John K. is a bad artist. He's a fucking amazing artist. He's a great animator. He makes bad cartoons.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:31 AM on January 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

It was interesting how when I said John K. does bad stuff a lot of people suddenly said "well I love Ren & Stimpy."

Because his good moment was so fucking good that it makes all his subsequent failures forgivable. And Ren & Stimpy really was that good.
posted by jonmc at 10:37 AM on January 6, 2008

Because his good moment was so fucking good that it makes all his subsequent failures forgivable.

Did you watch The Ripping Friends, jonmc?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2008

I didn't cite Ren & Stimpy. But if I had, I'd say both incarnations are well done. The latter was called "Adult Party Cartoon" for a reason. XQUZYPHYR, you are just hung up on the fact that they are gay. Krikfalusi himself has said that the sexual preference of Ren & Stimpy is none of his business. Besides Buggs Bunny in drag kissing Elmer Fudd isn't 'gay'?

As for his cartoons being "scatological" or "barely-comprehensible". I think you could make that accusation for a great deal of Warner Brothers, Disney, and MGM animated shorts as well. Perhaps XQUZYPHYR neglected to take that into consideration, which just adds to the testament to his lack of depth.
posted by onkelchrispy at 10:45 AM on January 6, 2008

I don't know anything about Kricfalusi's non-Ren-and-Stimpy work, and I don't care how much it sucks.

Ren and Stimpy and the Simpsons represented a watershed moment in animation. You may recall that, throughout the 70s and 80s, we were fed mind-numbing crap in the form of animation. When R&S and The Simpsons bust in on the scene, it was revolutionary - not only could cartoons be funny and subversive, but the artwork could be stylistic and creative. I see the early 90s as a turning point for animation. Had there been no R&S or The Simpsons, there would be no South Park, Family Guy, or ATHF. To deny that Kricfalusi played a significant role in this is to deny reality.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:51 AM on January 6, 2008

There were a lot of classic MGM cartoons that made poop jokes? Huh.

And yes, I was bothered that he made Ren & Stimpy gay. Because he did it for no reason, thinking that there would be some kind of "shocking" humor to it, and failed miserably. The original series thrived on the subtlety of suggesting it; then in the SpikeTV show he just made a whole bunch of fratboy jokes about anal sex. Comparing Bugs dressing in drag and that is blasphemy. So, what, are you trying to dismiss me by accusing me of homophobia or something? Seriously?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:54 AM on January 6, 2008

Anyway, I've clearly derailed the thread at this point which I didn't mean to do, and it appears that I'm now basically fighting with a bunch of people over how we all love Ren & Stimpy and I'm not going to keep doing that. Sorry about that. Great FPP, Astro Zombie.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:10 AM on January 6, 2008

No need to apologize, man; I'm just in it for the favorites.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:17 AM on January 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Did you watch The Ripping Friends, jonmc?

No. But Ren & Stimpy was fucking great enough that he gets a pass from me on whatever else he does. and as amny people have mentioned, cartoons have a tradition of puerile vulgar (and often funny as hell) humor going back decades.
posted by jonmc at 11:44 AM on January 6, 2008

Yeah yeah I get it.... "Your favorite cartoonist sucks."

Not that he's precisely my favorite but he, like Miyazaki (who is my favorite), draws the way I dream. So for me, it resonates very intensely.

Thanks for new, to me, Bakshi.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 11:59 AM on January 6, 2008

I certainly agree with many of the criticisms of Bakshi's work. The animation itself is not that lavish. I think Bakshi's strength is doing a lot with not very much, a skilll he surely acquired while working for Terrytoons, a studio notorious for being cheap overly frugal. I think a lot of his cinematic work is frankly pretty terrible. His most effective work, and the place his influence is strongest, is animation made for television. The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse was interesting because it was the first time I saw a contemporary animator actually design characters that were made to look good while moving stiffly or not at all - not so hot on a big screen, but excellent for the tight shooting schedule of an animated series. This led not only directly to Ren and Stimpy, which had the same basic character design, but also to some of the more elegant series made for television now (I'm thinking of some of the better looking stuff on the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.)
posted by louche mustachio at 12:25 PM on January 6, 2008

Sharpton announced, "I don't got to see shit; I can smell shit!"

An advocate spokesman of great depth and erudition.
posted by Tube at 12:28 PM on January 6, 2008

Some New Adventures of Mighty Mouse, for reference.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:29 PM on January 6, 2008

XQUZYPHYR writes "Another perfect example of this is John Krikfalusi (creator of Ren & Stimpy), who to this day fails to understand the painfully obvious reason why the scatalogical, barely-comprehensible tributes to Tex Avery on crystal meth he creates are loved by pretty much no one"

Oh, man, the only time Ren and Stimpy were any good was when they were like that. Anyway, I see the thread has already been through this.

I always liked Bakshi, though I can agree with a lot of the criticism. Even so, his animation and approach were always something that I somehow inherently understood. Cool World was pretty lame, but Coonskin is incredible, if you can approach it on its own terms.

And, on another derail, I always liked the Rainkin-Bass version of The Hobbit. The Bakshi attempt at the beginning of Lord of the Rings, not so much, but it does have its moments.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2008

Wow, that Scatman song in the opening is amazing. I love the contempt in his voice when he says "watch me dance..."
posted by sklero at 1:40 PM on January 6, 2008

45 favorites and not a ounce of insight in the thread. The term blaxploitaion seems a misnomer or is at least misleading in that the word alludes to something or someone being exploited. When it from my glancing it seems to simply mean a genre. Not unlike "film noir" or "pulp" And it certainly didn't mock it. It's shortcomings and rawness is part of it's character and helps it's cult status. Not much of value has been said in this thread,seems most circumvent any issues about social commentary this film makes. but white folks always get touch even at the mention of the word "race".
posted by Student of Man at 1:55 PM on January 6, 2008

I don't think Blaxploitation is inaccurate, not because it was an especially exploitative genre, but because "exploitation" is a term applied to genre films that dealt with subject matter that was considered somewhat titillating. Doris Wishman once, famously, declared that "all film is exploitation," but exploitation films tended to trade pretty overtly in taboo subjects such as sex, violence, drugs, horror, race, and crime.

Coonskin primarily satirized Blaxploitation's tendency to treat white characters as violent Hillbillies and black characters as urbane, straight-talking hustlers, as well as mocking the genres frequent decision to use sex, drugs, and violence as a marketing tool. Not all films that are defines as Blaxploitation did this, of course. Shaft, which Gordon Parks insisted was not exploitation, featured a lead character who was essentially just an ebony private eye, and related with police and white characters in the same manner as, say, Philip Marlow. He was also comfortable enough, and well-known enough, to escape from hoodlums by ducking into an East Village gay bar and pretend to be a bartender.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:45 PM on January 6, 2008

Man man and Boy boy....Ripping Friends.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:49 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is quite a strange coincidence for me, as I was just yesterday doing online research about COONSKIN, but not for a post - for a class I'm teaching.

I will be teaching a course on the history of animation this coming semester, and will be showing COONSKIN (DVD available through a gray-market website near you - do a Froogle search and it'll come up), which I regard as Bakshi's best film by far. (Bakshi himself agrees that is is one of his best; see the very informative interview with him in The Onion's AV Club.)

Another pretty good interview with Bakshi here.

When I've taught this course before, I did not include Bakshi - he's a difficult subject to teach, as you might imagine. But I decided to go for it this time, since he's too interesting a character in animation history to ignore.

I agree with a lot of the opinions in this thread: story is most definitely his weak point, but, at times, his grasp of animation fundamentals can be superb -- as in COONSKIN, and, to a lesser extent (in my opinion), in HEAVY TRAFFIC. I also agree with the remark above that Bakshi tends to do things just because he can - which is really not a good reason at all. Nice observation.

The first time I saw COONSKIN, about six years ago (on 35mm! quite a rare print that a friend really had to bend over backwards to get), it floored me. The outstanding opening sequence (with Scatman Crothers; I have a nice mp3 of that song; drop me a MeFi email if you'd like to hear it) brilliantly sets the tone for the whole film: race-oriented anger, ambivalence, rabble-rousing, jesting. My mouth hung open. (Great composition in that shot, too.)

The rest of the film, I was pleased to find, lived up to the high expectations set by the opening. Very smart, complex, and extremely, extremely challenging. It should come as no surprise at all that there was so much controversy over the film.

Due to various hiatuses and travel plans, I've had to be creative with my syllabus this semester -- there wasn't enough room for everything I wanted to include. But I felt I had to wedge ol' Ralph in there somewhere. It will be, I'm sure, very very interesting to see how the students react.

I will certainly be directing students to this very discussion thread, as I think it will help them get some insight into the film's complicated racial politics. (Hi, Film 350 students!) And I've just now been wondering: would any MeFite with strong/informed opinions on COONSKIN and/or personal experience with the film or its controversy be interested in participating in some kind of online discussion? Please, again, drop me a MeFi email if you are.

Thanks for the post, Astro Zombie. Very informative stuff.

If y'all are interested, there's an online petition for the official DVD release of this film.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think Bakshi is one of those "arthouse" and "underground" artists that has a cult following but doesn't possess any actual talent. (see also: Alan Rudolph). The animation is pedestrian and the stories are deadly dull and unwatchable. Seems like he needed cheap shocks with movies like this to get an audience.

limited appeal does not equal lack of talent. Sometimes the exact opposite is the case. I know quite a few successful mainstream artists who cite Bakshi as a huge influence. His work, along with Vaughn Bode and Jack Kirby among others was a HUGE influence on the 70's NY graffiti movement, which has filtered into the mainstream in too many ways to count. Or put anoter way, who cares what you think?

I'm a huge Bakshi fan, mostly for the style, and not so much the storytelling. With the exception of American Pop, to echo a few other commenters. But as a pure visual stylist, the man is a master. Coonskin and Heavy Traffic are huge favorites of mine, simply because they're just amazing to look at. And Heavy Traffic in particular just oozes with grimy 70's New York in a way that I can't get enough of. And if you watch it enough, the story is actually not as incoherent as it seems at first.

In our apt. we have an original Coonskin cel hanging in the living room (see here for that story) and even people who have never heard of Bakshi or his movies can't help but notice it and think it's pretty damn cool.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:55 PM on January 6, 2008

I remember that story, Billy. It's a really nice one.

Actually, that was one of my FPPs too, now that I think about it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:29 PM on January 6, 2008

Yeah, friend of mine showed this to me. Does it completely make sense? Not really. Does it put you to sleep (if you've been smoking a lot of pot and drinking a wee bit)? Yes... Is it worthwhile and ballsy as all hell? Yes.
posted by Football Bat at 7:52 PM on January 6, 2008

When I first saw Tom Waits For No One I thought for sure it was by Bakshi. Like a few others have said, American Pop is a great film.
posted by Sailormom at 8:57 PM on January 6, 2008

While confusing and disjointed, I ended up enjoying that by the end. It wasn't a bad movie, but I wouldn't say (today) that it was a great movie. Certainly better than whatever "black people so crazy" film that Martin Lawrence is in this week.

I say "today" because I can't really envision the sentiment of the time the film was released. Part of me secretly believes there must be some element of truth to reincarnation, because 1970s NYC has always held a particular allure for me. Certain aspects of it, anyway; I never enjoyed the Godfather movies or any of the mafia depictions that have emerged since then, so it's hard to say that it's just the media influence of the movies of my youth. I know it was dirty, gritty, harsh, unforgiving, ugly, mean, and violent; but there's something romantic about the New York of that era for me. And I'm with you if you tell me that it's completely unfounded; that's what makes it so mystifying... and mystical. Movies like Coonskin, Taxi Driver, and heck, even The Warriors; or the music of Steely Dan—they function like a window into a past life. It's hard for me to judge them on their own terms, in their own time. Despite being only five years removed from the release of this film, I've never really experienced rascism personally in my life. So it's hard to understand where the Fox, the Bear, and the Rabbit were coming from. But I know it was a hard place, and I'm forgiving of them for it. I come to these movies to learn, not to judge. I think maybe I got a good start on that in the 80s, when my aunt took me to see Song of the South in NYC, and she gave me the approach I'd need in the future to see these movies unadorned, the way you look at an old uncle, now grizzled and set in his ways. But you've seen the bright, shining face of that uncle as a child, in the family photo album. And you understand not so much what's brought him here, not having lived it yourself, but that overwhelming process of change we're pressed through in life. And you know that some, much, or all of what he sacrificed was to get you to where you are now. And you love the unloveable because they're family. They're us.
posted by Eideteker at 5:13 AM on January 30, 2008

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