The Princess and the Frog

Ah, finally, a black princess!

And it only took Disney 72 years from the debut of our first princess, Snow White. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Not.

 

  • Tiana is not even the beginning princess in her own film. Charlotte, the rich white girl Tiana’s mother works for, is the initial princess.
  • Tiana is falls in love with a white boy. Now, he may have olive colored skin and an accent, but for all intents and purposes he’s a freaking white boy. There’s nothing quite like having a movie dripped in that racism. Because black boys don’t need heroes, right? (sarcasm~~)
  • Tiana is a frog for the majority of her time onscreen. Disney couldn’t even allow her to be the black human being she is. 
  • The representation of voodoo is disgustingly racist. Racialicious, a blog dedicated to the discussion of race issues in pop culture, sums this up nicely in this article (please read the whole thing, it is excellent):

“To underline how offensive The Prince and the Frog’s version of voodoo is, imagine if another religion were treated as a system of enchantment that could be employed for good or for ill. Imagine if the prince had been changed into a frog because a Catholic priest, referred to as a magician, who is wearing a Roman collar but seems to exist in a separate universe from the actual tenets of Catholicism, sprinkled him with cursed water from a baptismal font, and the only way for the prince and Tiana to save themselves was for them to get the pope-wizard to feed them magical communion wafers. It’s because voodoo is an African religious system that it can be treated with such license as though it weren’t a real religion like Christianity or Hinduism.

  • The villain in this movie is a black person. The princess is a black person. But the prince is a white person. This is white colonialism’s defense: white man saves brown woman from brown man. No, sorry. Not ok.

 

Ok, ok, so everything I’ve said and read about The Princess and the Frog has been negative. here are some of the things that I enjoyed:

  • Tiana has her own goals outside of finding a man or falling in love. Her restaurant! How awesome! She wants to run a business!
  • Tiana represents a different socioeconomic status than the other princesses. Not many of us are the rich and fortunate Sleeping Beauty or Ariel. Not actually being royalty made Tiana more relatable.

 

Feminist rating: 6/10

Passes Bechdel Test

Passes Racial Bechdel Test

 

Mulan

Mulan, often hailed as the more feminist of the Disney princesses, certainly has some problems. While I primarily agree with the sentiment that Mulan is empowered and a bad ass, let’s not forget that the film opens with a number that places Mulan’s only value in her ability to find and keep a husband. “Girl” is regularly used as an insult in this film, and the song “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You,” while catchy, is certainly enforcing gender expectations. While gender norms are oppressive towards women, they are oppressive towards men as well. The need to be tough and physically fit can be quite the burden on our men.

Another cool thing about Mulan is she sheds all preconceived notions of a princess. She is articulate, loves being educated, strong willed, and disobedient. It’s refreshing after watching white disney princess films.

The representation of the Chinese race is problematic in this film and is manifested in a few characters. Chi Fu, the advisor sent with Shang and Mulan to defeat the Huns, is a nasty caricature of Chinese stereotypes. His accent is heavy, his animation is tacky, his voice actor is putting on airs, and his is highly sissified and used for comedic relief against the dark tones of the film. Another character that is problematic the is Emperor of China himself. While he is meant to be portrayed as a fair and trustworthy ruler, he spouts “words of wisdom” that you would see printed on placemats at a Chinese restaurant in downtown Lansing.

Chi Fu

My favorite part of the film, though, is during the number “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” and Mulan kicks the butt of every male soldier.

Feminist Rating: 7/10

Fails Bechdel Test

Passes Racial Bechdel Test

Aladdin

Finally, a movie with PoC! Too bad it is riddled with Western propaganda and Arab stereotypes! Let’s talk about that opening number.

Phew! What a racist doozy. “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home!”

Jasmine is the only named, speaking woman in the WHOLE FILM. She is literally just a puppet that is tossed around throughout the film to further the plot of the men. Aladdin courts her to get some, Jafar mind controls the Sultan to marry her, and the Sultan (her father) needs her to get married. Everything Jasmine does centers around men. Even her tiger, Rajah, is male.

Her costume is highly sexualized for the Western male fantasy. This story, loosely influenced by One Thousand and One Nights, takes place in Persia. Persian princesses do not dress as Jasmine dresses. She is basically dressed in her underwear. But nobody in Disney gives this a second thought.

What a more accurate Persion princess might look like compared to Jasmine's sexualized look

What a more accurate Persion princess might look like compared to Jasmine’s sexualized look

To top it all off, Jasmine is as bland as characters can get (not that the white princess have anything to them but c’mon, Disney….). She shows the same independent streak that Belle, and Ariel had, but Jasmine is a victim of the Sexy Lampshade. She could be replaced with a sexy lampshade and the whole plot would remain the same. She does nothing but tempt men the whole film.

I have found another video for you enjoyment that discussed the harmful isms in Aladdin: 

Feminist rating: 0/10

Fails Bechdel Test

Passes Racial Bechdel Test

Gender- & Race-bent Disney

A lot of criticism has surrounded Frozen’s success as the top grossing animated film of all time. While the film has many victories in the way women are treated and perceived in the film, there is a even larger drawback: not a single PoC was featured in the film. There wasn’t even PoC as extras! I just wrote a post on Cinderella, a Disney film released in 1950, and that had a PoC count of 0 as well. Does Frozen mark real progress? Not so much.

Often in pockets of the internet you can find pretty cool things (once you sort through the misogyny, anonymous cowardice, isms, and violence). I wanted to share with you a phenomenon within Disney fan art. This niche is focused on race- and gender-bending characters. That means white princesses are redesigned as WoC and male princes are redesigned as female.

The images, which I’ve shared below, are striking — but in a good way. They really make you think about the stories you’re being told and perhaps how much more interesting they would be if told from another race’s or gender’s point of view.

I cannot stress how important equal representation in children’s media is. Disney is a socialization agent unto its own; while you make dinner or are busy with other adult things, what are your children doing? They are most likely observing Disney films, playing with Disney toys, or watching the Disney Channel. Finding safe places for children of color within Disney is a major step toward equality in society, as our children face the reality of diversity in their lives.

You can find an interesting blog here and here, with a link to all of the original artists. If you are a tumblr user, please follow the blogs and enjoy some race- and gender-bent Disney on a daily basis!

Race-bent Anna and Hans from Frozen.

Race-bent Elsa from Frozen.

Gender-bent Hercules

Gender-bent Pocachontas

Middle-Eastern Alice

 

Indian Rapunzel

 

Real, Badass Women Turned Sparkly Princesses

Last fall, artist David Trumble came out with a series of art pieces called “World of Women” where he took real women and princessified them. His intent is pretty awesome. This statement is take from Women You Should Know. Great satire is my favorite form of comedy as well as feminism, and here it is to be shared with you all.

“This was a response to the furor kicked up over the glossy ‘princessification’ of Pixar’s Merida character, both in image and doll form. I drew this picture because I wanted to analyze how unnecessary it is to collapse a heroine into one specific mold, to give them all the same sparkly fashion, the same tiny figures, and the same homogenized plastic smile.

“My experience of female role models both in culture and in life has shown me that there is no mold for what makes someone a role model, and the whole point of Merida was that she was a step in the right direction, providing girls with an alternative kind of princess. Then they took two steps back, and painted her with the same glossy brush as the rest. So I decided to take 10 real-life female role models, from diverse experiences and backgrounds, and filter them through the Disney princess assembly line.

“The result was this cartoon, which earned equal parts praise and ire from readers. Some didn’t get the joke, some disagreed with it, others saw no harm in it at all and wanted to buy the doll versions of them… it was a polarizing image, but I suppose that’s the point. The statement I wanted to make was that it makes no sense to put these real-life women into one limited template, so why then are we doing it to our fictitious heroines?

“Fiction is the lens through which young children first perceive role models, so we have a responsibility to provide them with a diverse and eclectic selection of female archetypes. Now, I’m not even saying that girls shouldn’t have princesses in their lives, the archetype in and of itself is not innately wrong, but there should be more options to choose from. So that was my intent, to demonstrate how ridiculous it is to paint an entire gender of heroes with one superficial brush.

“But that’s just me.” – David Trumble