Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Well Shut My Mouth and Call Me Corn Pone!" The Civil War, Memory, and Looney Tunes?

Today I saw an old Looney Tunes cartoon that I remembered watching as a youngster on Saturday mornings. It was called "Dog Gone South," and it is quite funny. The story is about a vagrant dog that gets kicked off a train and lands in the South where he meets an Old South Colonel and tries to make a home by hook or crook. Things turn bad when the dog runs into Belvedere; the Colonel's bulldog. The dog thinks he finally has fooled old Belvedere, but the tables get turned and he ends up getting booted out of the South and back onto the train.

Seeing this old cartoon got me to remembering others I had seen as a boy that dealt with the South, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. I remembered several, and with the help of You Tube I found a number of these. I am not sure what we can learn from these cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s, but they seem to say something about how we remembered the the Old South and the Civil War....before the Civil Rights Movement.

A number of these cartoons had less than flattering depictions of slaves, and I suppose the political correctness thing is part of the reason that they are not shown any more. For example, in "Confederate Honey," there is a scene of slaves picking cotton. Most are doing it by hand, but one is using a push lawn mower which throws the cotton into a bag on his back. The scene shifts to a boy handing cotton to his reclining father. When the boy puts too much cotton in his father's hand the father says something to the effect that he is being too ambitious, when the boy removes some the father says "that's better." This cartoon also takes some liberties with Gone with the Wind. Instead of Rhett Butler, Elmer Fudd is Ned Cutler, and instead of Scarlett O'Hara, she is Crimson O'Hair Oil.

In "Southern Fried Rabbit," Bugs Bunny meets up with his old antagonist Yosemite Sam, but this time Sam is a Confederate still fighting the war years later. Bugs's reason for going down South is to cash in on a bumper carrot crop in Alabama that he reads about in the newspaper. When Bugs reaches the South he exclaims, "Well shut my mouth and call me corn pone!" When Bugs meets Sam, he tells him the war has been over for 90 years. Sam replies classically as any unreconstructed Southerner would, "I'm no clock watcher!" When Sam accidentally runs across the "Mason-Dixon" line he surprisingly says, "Great horny toads...I'm up North!" He quickly retreats to Southern ground and says, "Gonna have to burn my boots, they touched Yankee soil." In this one Bugs uses a number of disguises to fool old Sam. He is a slave, Abe Lincoln, General "Brickwall" Jackson, and Southern Belle, "Scarlett." When he is Lincoln he asks Sam, "What's this I hear about you beating slaves?" Sam can only reply, "but, but, but, but." Bugs then walks off telling Sam to look him up at his Gettysburg address.

In "Rebel Without Claws" Tweety is a Confederate messenger pigeon. Now, I have never heard of using messenger pigeons in the Civil War, but how else are you going to work a bird into a cartoon about the Civil War? Sylvester is the Union's secret weapon to destroy the messenger. At one point Tweety says, "I thought I saw a damn Yankee cat." At another he says, "I wonder why they put the South so far South?" Sylvester and Tweety even have a scene on an ironclad ship. Tweety is finally caught and gives the famous Nathan Hale line (from the Revolutionary War), "I only regret that I have one life to give for my country." A group of misfit Yankee soldiers then proceed to shoot Sylvester standing nearby.

One that I couldn't find to re-watch was "Mississippi Hare." It of course is another that features Bugs Bunny, and if I remember correctly is much like the story lines of "Southern Fried Rabbit," and "Dog Gone South."

Again, I don't know what these tell us about history....if anything, but it is interesting to view them from through a post-Civil Rights Movement lens. Images of African Americans ,and white Southerners for that matter, have changed drastically since the 1960s. Hopefully we don't lose our sense of humor and we can still laugh at at least parts of these. But, at the same time, I hope we realize that part of what we see in these old cartoons can be offensive to some people, and that they are largely the views of days gone by for most people.

Here are links to some of these clips. Remember, some people may find parts of these offensive.

"Southern Fried Rabbit"

"Dog Gone South"

"Confederate Honey"

"Rebel Without Claws"

6 comments:

  1. Looks like a good intelligent blog.

    I for one don't find the Civil War amusing, because to me, slavery and the Civil War were as vile as the Nazi Holocaust.

    It seems Europe has learned something from the defeat of Nazism, but much of America has yet to deal with slavery and the Civil War.

    I dont mean "blame" anyone -- I mean learn what actually happened.

    We have not admitted that whites too were terrorized in the South - whites had no rights to free speech in the South for decades before the Civil War. White men could be - and were -- whipped and jailed for owning the wrong book.

    Most Americans North or South have any idea there was no free speech in most of the South before the Civil War.

    Nor were there free elections. Did you know that most Southern states simply would not allow anti -slave candidates on the ballot?

    Lincoln was not on the ballot in 9 Southern states. It was illegal to pass out campaign literature.

    Do most people know this? No. In fact, Confederate apologist are incensed even at the suggestion. They have no clue how oppressive government in the South had become, as it struggled to justify and defend chattel slavery.

    Until "google books" I had no idea of the evil (there is no other suitable word) that permeated the slave culture. Not all of the South fell victim to that, of course. Many honorable people lived in the South - and many hated the Confederacy and would fight against them in the Civil War - a fact almost forgotten now.

    Ive been reading a lot on Google Books - which has many thousands of books digitized from that period.

    Books written by Southerners right after the war, giving their view of it, written while the smoldering ruins of the war still sent smoke into the sky.

    Books written by Jefferson Davis, speeches by almost every Confederate leader, testimony of slaves themselves.

    You can find the laws about slaves -- how slaves could be burned to death slowly for rebelling, how many lashes could a slave get for "sassing" or making a face to a white person.

    If there is a current available book today exposing the real horrors of slavery, and the evilness of the Confederacy - I have yet to read it.

    For some reason, it's not politically correct to expose evil that evolved into the Confederacy.

    Most "scholarship" and energy from the Confederacy has been devoting to minimizing the horrors of slavery -- denying that slavery was the fundamental issue in the Civil War -- or blaming people in the North for slavery. Jeff Davis' books for example.

    It should not be about blame - it should be bout truth.

    Maybe in another 150 years, someone will be able to describe what really happened

    Meanwhile -- almost all Confederate history, perhaps including this blog, is white washed to an absurd degree. Six generations have come and gone, and each new generation gets a more white washed distorted account, not less.

    So to me, nothing is funny about it. I think we should learn from our history - so we don't repeat it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The difference is that Nazism CAUSED the Holocaust while the Civil War ENDED slavery. America is the only country in history to go to war with itself to end slavery. And remember slavery was not started in America but it was ended here.

      Delete
    2. The four links have died.

      Delete
  2. Colored troops in the Civil War -- apparently this blog buys it.

    Talk about wishful thinking.

    No doubt there were some black men who went with their owners (officers) into battle -- or were told to go. But there were black men who helped at slave auctions -- black men who whipped the slaves per master's instructions. Black overseers were often the most feared in the South.

    So what? Let's honor the black overseers?

    The Confederate apologist are so driven to escape reality, they insist black soldiers fought WITH Confederates "side by side, with equal pay". Others insist slaves were freed by the South in 1862 - a preposterous notion, since Jeff Davis himself decreed on Jan 5 1863 that all negroes ever freed were hereby re-enslaved - "and their issue, forever".

    The Conscription Act in March of 1865 did provide for equal pay -- and to serve in regular units. But the act specically says they are STILL slaves, it does not even hint at their freedom.

    Plus, not single slave was ever processed through to be deployed in any unit. The war ended a few weeks later -- and Richmond was surrounded, then the great exodus from Richmond.

    But never mind the truth - -some want to see blacks fighting for the Confederacy, a South who just loved justice - and slave drivers who treated their slaves like family.

    All nonsense.

    ReplyDelete
  3. And the lily white north of course was absolutely the land of milk and honey even when they owned their slaves - which of course was the first place most were brought into the US, that wonderful "north" land.

    Now of course, if we were to ask the Irish and the Italians, and the Chinese about that wonderful Utopia known by the above commentators as "the North", we might find similar accounts as these people of color have described about black slaves.

    And so where are the books and the outrage, and the blogs and the historical corrections about them??

    or is this perhaps something to do with reconstructionist history of only one ethnicity, whose view of history is stained and tarnished by people like Louie Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright, just to name only a couple? Is their history perhaps tainted only by their attempts at revenge...because surely if it was only about correcting historical inaccuracies, these noble men and women of color would be sure to talk at length about how bad "the north" was for these other ethnicities...

    yeah, right. That'll be the day.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That was actually an unusually good discusion

    ReplyDelete