This article was previously published on DailyDoseofDiversity.com
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?
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.
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.