And it only took Disney 72 years from the debut of our first princess, Snow White. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.
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.
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.
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.
This is a video post I’m sharing of Melissa Fabello, an editor of Everyday Feminism, a website dedicated to activism and education. Here she shares the importance of critically thinking about the media we consume, and how we feel after we consume it.
She jokes about how we probably don’t want to be “that friend.” The one that is constantly criticizing media for its lack of diversity in all forms (women, people of color, fat people and thin people, etc). But the reality is, we should all be that friend. We should all work to maintain media literacy.
That’s what I’ve strived for in my criticism of Disney the past few months. I’ve wanted to work on my own media literacy while educating others.
What we consume as a culture and society shapes us as individuals. What we show our children shapes them as adults. We need to educate ourselves and want something better for ourselves.
As Melissa says in the video above, all media is owned by 6 corporations. And those 6 corporations are run by straight, white men. If all of our media and stories are coming from that slim demographic, we really need to think about the stereotypes and misinformation we are consuming when we watch television or read magazines.
What I want for my children, and what I’m sure a lot of people want for their children, is to lead happy and healthy lives. I want them to love themselves and the people around them. I want them to enjoy their world and the media. I don’t want them to grow up hating themselves. So, let’s all work on media literacy.
You can find a post on educating children on media literacy here.
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
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:
This is a Disney film without a single person of color.
First and foremost, this film perpetuates the belief that womenare out to get each other in terms of competing attractiveness and youth from the get go. A jealous, older, widowed step mother plots to murder her “beautiful” step daughter on the basis of a perceived threat. Not to mention the fact that a freaking mirror relayed the message to the queen that she is no longer the “fairest in the land.” This is a control tactic patriarchy uses against women. Oppression 101, make sure the oppressed groups do it to themselves.
Snow White is another princess that embodies the so called cult of womanhood. She is forgiving, kind, thin, attractive to men, gentle, nurturing, etc. (At the very least she is not blonde). This is truly an unfair standard for our young girls to ascribe to. Women are people and not 1 dimensional things. We have thoughts, feelings, passions, tempers, etc, and that’s what make us human. We’re quite complicated, but all humans are. So why are women constantly depicted as this one standard?
This film dabbles in the idea of “true love’s kiss” and finding a man. Which begs the question, is this story about women really about women, or is it about the men that save the women from each other? Also, if Snow White is really dead (or in a death like slumber), the prince, like, kisses a corpse? Gross…?