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A young songwriter leaves his Kentucky home to try to make it in New Orleans. Eventually he winds up in New York, where he sells his songs to a music publisher, but refuses to sell his most treasured composition: "Dixie." The film is based on the life of Daniel Decatur Emmett, who wrote the classic song "Dixie." Written by
All of these reviews read like essays by high school kids competing with each other to gain the favor of their teacher who made them watch this movie, and then write an essay about how evil minstrelsy was. Extra credit for the most anti-minstrelsy.
From the synopsis I read of this movie (I haven't seen it, but I'd like to) it would appear it has almost nothing to do with the real Dan Emmett, or the real cultural environment of the country during the time period covered, so there's no point in looking to the movie for insight into minstrelsy. Instead, it appears the reviewers looked elsewhere on the web, and found the most biased, least informative stuff they could find on minstrelsy, and cut and pasted it into the reviews.
Folks, Minstrelsy was by far the most popular form of entertainment for a CENTURY in the US. Only the circus came close. Do you really think that minstrelsy was all about one thing, and it was always the same thing to the majority of the population for over a century? It is a shame that discussion of minstrelsy has been so suppressed that it has allowed these attitudes to grow up around it. Now there is a great deal of scholarly discussion, and the researchers have a sophisticated grasp of what was really going on. Most of this information hasn't trickled down to us yet.
Imagine if somebody said that all of rock music is about one thing - stealing from and making fun of blacks. Mick Jagger was aping black people to make fun of them. Some people might agree with that, but they would be wrong. Or if they said rap music is about one thing - hating whitey.
As wrong-headed as those assessments would be, it's 10 times worse about minstrelsy, which was a much bigger phenomena than rock and rap put together. Minstrelsy was about mockery, and mimicry. About admiration, and hate. it was whites pretending to be black, blacks pretending to be Chinese... there were many stock characters in minstrelsy, and everybody played everybody. Some of it was about hate and distrust, some of it was about finding a way to get along.
In 1943, they were already looking at this stuff through filters, though if Al Jolson was out of blackface by then, it was only be a little bit. Now we have different filters.
Don't take other people's word (including mine), look at it for yourself. But spend some time with it. Sure, the first thing you will see is the caricature, and it will appear it was all about degrading at hate. But the more you look, the more you will learn.
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