Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog”: Is Green Face the New Black Face?

This article was previously published on DailyDoseofDiversity.com

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Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog”

How far have we really come? Walking into see Disney’s latest feature I was excited to grasp a glimpse of my childhood. I remember the feeling of excitement, when I would walk into a movie theater with other children and the anticipation to hear amazing music!

I was intrigued to see whether I would still lose myself in the beauty and musical charm of the classic Disney movies I grew up with. My favorite movie is the Lion King! I asked myself would there be sweeping epic landscapes of historical New Orleans? Would the Bayou be painted in the essence of a Disney romance; reminiscent of the Little Mermaid’s, “Kiss the girl scene?” Would Postcolonial main land “America” Disney finally have their very own Aladdin and Jasmine? Pocahontas faced colonization in her film, so it does not count.
My questions were answered within the first 30 minutes of the film. The movie over all was quite charming with the attempted undercurrent of New Orleans Jazz and “culture.” However, the story lacked what I hoped Disney would produce…A simple love story with a Princess and/or a Prince.

Instead the audience is bombarded with, “The North Star” wishing, chambermaid/underdog/oppressed “girl” and an Evil undertone that frightened many of the children in my showing. There was no thick detailed character development like past Disney movies. Most characters have a distinct goal that saves their “kingdom.” Tiana had a dream and a mean old man that wanted to crash on her parade and was feeding everyone really what her “Kingdom” needed? Mulan saved Japan, Pocahontas stopped a war, Snow White saved dwarfs, Simba restored the Pride Lands…and Tiana got to turn into a frog for the entire movie and eventually open a restaurant?

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The little girl seated next to me kept asking her mom, “Where did the Princess go? It was quite obvious that the little girl was referring to the white female character that Tiana’s mother worked for.  Her mother kept telling her, “That is not the princess, honey.” Eventually, the little girl started to get bored and kept talking. Her mother turned to me and said, “I’m sorry, my daughter is falling asleep.  We are going to have to leave in a second. It’s such a good movie; really good, I’m sad we have to go…ha-ha-ha… It’s really good…I am so sorry.” Little did she know I had been paying attention and her daughter was not sleeping, she was just BORED.  The white “Princess” was not the “Princess” and the real “Princess” turned into a green frog shortly into the film. I replied to the mother, “It was fine.”

So, these Disney Princesses….Most all are of noble birth, except for Tiana and Belle. Belle’s only difference is that her character does not play into any common stereotypes of her era. Would Belle’s father actually be an inventor for his day job? Would Belle honestly be able to read; yet alone, spend her days reading?  Now, some may argue what is Nobel? And it seemed Disney tried to justify this new classic movie as, “It’s not where you come from and not what you have that makes someone respectable.” But, then why now? Why did Disney change? That seems like a LOT to tackle in a children’s movie with all the other plot twists.

All of the “Classic” Princesses (Disney marketed this film as a 2D throwback) are rooted in some folk tale, or historical incident. All princesses are of noble lineage or perform noble acts that are accentuated by unsatisfactory situations. All, except Princess Tiana…Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas, Ariel and Princess Aurora were Born of Nobel lineage, Mulan is historically based on a Chinese Folk legend that include ambiguous lines of superior lineage…but Tiana did not get her back-story explained like past Princesses.

Disney tried to put too much into the film (The Princess and The Frog). I feel after Hurricane Katrina, Disney thought highlighting New Orleans would be, “Nice.” How Politically correct is it to present a Voodoo and Witchcraft ridden New Orleans? And WHY does Tiana’s Prince have to lose all of his money?  I know we are in a time where equality is respectable and desired, but do they, Tiana and the Prince, have to be “equally poor?”  Littler girls dream of a Prince with “nice” things and being swept off their feet. Why stop that dream now; especially, when standards of “sex and commitment are lower in popular media representations.”

Why is Tiana not set in a folk tale or historical backdrop? Why couldn’t she have ancestors from Africa and discover her roots and find a Prince, too? Wouldn’t it have been delightful and fascinating to see Tiana develop into a Princess, instead of a frog; surviving death at every turn? Why isn’t she like Belle? Belle was able to live in leisure, read and then be held captive by a beast, along with his charming bewitched staff? Is Disney NOW trying to be accurate or politically correct/sensitive? I don’t think they achieved that.

A devastating part of the movie that the audience voiced while walking out was the “Guiding” character in the movie died! Zazu, Jiminy, Sebastian, etc do NOT die. Mufasa died, but had an omnipresent presence through The Lion King…So I do not understand OR approve of Disney’s choice to make this movie and will take my children to see The Lion King on Broadway instead.

Why couldn’t The Lion King have been made (and subsequently adapted) with REAL people? That would have been fine.

Forget being politically correct, forget making up for all of Disney’s short comings… Just give me a standard Princess story with black characters.

 

GUEST WRITER:

ShamimeShaw Disneys “The Princess and the Frog”: Is Green Face the New Black Face? society race talk  black / african american Shamime is the editor of the Mixed and Happy teen section, Kloth Culture (Blogspot) and Daily Dose of Diversity. She is also a recent graduate of UCLA’s School of Arts and Architecture. She majored in World Arts and Cultures, and her academic interests include studies in critical race theory, art, culture, journalism and documentary photography. She is half African-American and half Asian Indian! Contact her at Simplyshamime@gmail.com.

 

 

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Comments

  1. J Olivarez-Mazone says

    I liked the movie but it did seem a little off to me as well with the whole broke prince who was trying to marry I forgot her name because she was wealthy. Even Rapunzel was a lost Princess. I understand the whole rags to riches concept but there was not enough back story to support it.

  2. Nikki @ Euphoria Luv says

    Dang! Way to break a movie down. LOL.  I sorta see things a bit different and thought it was a good attempt.  I do agree about the witch doctor guy but then there's always been some spiritual elements in all Disney movies.  This one just happen to be what New Orleans are know for. Voodoo and Witchcraft

  3. says

    Shamime, this was a real eye-opener for me.  I had never thought of the idea that children might see Charlotte as the princess…makes sense the way you state it.  I thought the voodoo was a bit dark too, but no darker than other Disney movies.  Another great point you made, was about how Disney made Tiana's prince poor.  I think they were trying to make it more "relate-able" for brown girls, but yes, I see what you mean about it coming off as if they don't deserve a prince who's already got his act together.  There are so many thought-provoking elements in this post and I really appreciate the perspective.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts!  We love and appreciate Tiana, even if not all the elements in the film hit the mark…it's great to see a Black princess!  ;)

  4. says

    Shamine, I agree with most with you on almost everything. However, I've never been a big Disney princess movie fan as I think that many of the messages they send are outdated and erroneous. In fact, I actually thought it was really positive to see Tiana shown as a powerful, not waiting around for my prince, type of girl. You mentioned Aladdin and while Aladdin is one of my favorites, I do know its filled with stereotypes and to this day is considered one of the most racist Disney movies. The only positive thing I see in common between Tiana and Aladdin was Aladdin's main message "a diamond in the rough". Both characters are true, noble, do what they can to survive, and destiny rewards them they just need a bit of polishing up, in their own respects. Also, I was (as bad as this may sound), to see the evil person be a man and not a woman (the classics are filled with evil, jealous women, not the greatest message for girls) and the Tiana's mother alive instead of dead (every other Disney movie, including Nemo, the mom is always dead).

  5. Keshfish says

    I enjoyed the movie.  With that said, I have to admit that I wanted it to be magnificent, and it had not been. my opinion fell in line later when I was asked about it.  I heard myself saying, it was great even though i didn't quite believe it.   I took my four year old daughter dressed in her ball gown and we had a darling afternoon together, and I now think that the whole date contributed to my overall feeling.  I just  wish there was more of the princess, and had Disney called me, I would have written the most beautiful tale for their "1st black princess" movie.

  6. prchnctodream says

    I just wanted to mention, Mulan did not save JAPAN, she saved CHINA. I figure it was an oversight, being as you mention China later… "Mulan is historically based on a Chinese Folk legend that include ambiguous lines of superior lineage…" :)

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