Tag: Brer Rabbit

Brer Rabbit and Dialect in Early Educational Film Strips

In 1965 the students of Mercer Elementary in Shaker Heights, Ohio served as guinea pigs for use of educational film strips in the classroom — the wave of the future!

The experiment, Project Discovery, sought to demonstrate the effectiveness of audio/visual learning in school.  It’s credited with jump starting the academic film industry and toppling a few textbook publishers along the way.

Brer Rabbit is featured prominently in this film about Project Discovery, and the kids from Shaker Heights have a few things to say about the southern accent.

[youtube 4bgGu8VWWfM]

The entire film is 30 minutes and excellent.  Near the end they let Philip talk for a few minutes, and goodness gracious it is hilarious.  If this hadn’t been the greatest challenge of my life to date, I would have embedded the whole thing here.

(h/t Gregg.  Thanks!)

Brer Rabbit on The Golden Girls

Brer Rabbit’s influence on popular culture knows no bounds.

Need proof?  Forget Peter Rabbit or Bugs Bunny.  Look no further than this clip of Pecanne Log The Golden Girls

[youtube ycdO89-yB50]

And for our Yankee readers, Blanche’s assessment of southerners is completely accurate.  We can’t learn y’all that kind of charm.

1955 Brer Rabbit Car Commercial for American Motors

Before Brer Buick, there was the Nash Rambler by American Motors.  It was the lowest-priced air-conditioned car in America!

[youtube TbMZKxZ6Ips]

According to Disney historian Jim Korkis, Disney produced commercials when budgets were tight in the 1950s.  It was unthinkable at the time for a motion picture studio to aid the cause of television, but hey — Disneyland wasn’t going to build itself.

The accents the characters use are fascinating — sort of a cross between Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel and the jive-talkin’ caricatures in Coonskin.

You might have noticed that Brer Rabbit looks nothing like he did in Song of the South.  Lainey* explains that legendary character stylist Tom Oreb probably designed the commercial. 

* No relation.

William Morris and His Brer Rabbit Wallpaper

William Morris — artist, designer, preservationist, and man with an extensive Wikipedia page — designed Brer Rabbit Wallpaper.  The staff of the Wren’s Nest just discovered this fact.

William Morris Brer Rabbit Wallpaper

Apparently, we have been under a rock for quite some time.

Morris released the design in mid-1882, 18 months after Joel Chandler Harris released Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings in the United States.

It’s amazing how quickly the Brer Rabbit stories skipped across the pond.  Not only did Morris have time to come up with this design in less than two years, but also Rudyard Kipling (b. 1865) memorized the stories in school around the same time.

You can still order the wallpaper (or drapes!) in different colors.  Run, don’t walk, to the Morris and Co. website to grab a sample.

Wren's Nest Visitor Drops Brer Rabbit Album With Dialect

Today a gentleman visiting from California stopped in for our Buy-1-Get-1-Free Spring Break (Woo!) Storytelling Extravaganza.  Naturally, he was delighted.

After the tour, he handed me a CD’s worth of Brer Rabbit stories that he recorded. Here, take a listen —

Stephen Allman – The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story

[audio:allmantarbaby.mp3]

I was surprised to find out that Stephen isn’t a professional storyteller.  The production quality is great, he has a wonderful voice, and he can tell a good story.  The folks that heard his versions here were disappointed he didn’t have CDs for sale.

Stephen was struck by the Brer Rabbit stories he heard as a child, often told to him in Gullah or Geechee dialects.  So unlike our storytellers, Stephen has employed dialect in these versions, like Joel Chandler Harris did when originally recorded the stories.

To some, this is the most controversial aspect of Harris’s work.

The argument goes something like this — Harris’s use of dialect is insulting and stereotypical, especially from someone who has essentially hijacked and homogenized an important portion of African-American culture.  He stinks.

Stephen Allman – The Briar Patch

[audio:allmanbriarpatch.mp3]

To others, employing dialect is one of the most important parts of Harris’s work.

Their argument goes like this — Harris carefully preserved a vital part of culture, speech, and history, while also becoming one of the first Americans to present black culture to a wide audience with respect.  He should have a halo when you picture him.

What do you think of Stephen’s stories?  Think we should sell his CD at the Wren’s Nest?

What about the dialect in the stories?  Does it make you smile?  Does it make you cringe?

Does it matter that Stephen is white?  Would your perception be different if he were black?  Is the presentation politically correct or politically incorrect?  Does that matter?

Previously:

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