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

 

The Purpose of this Blog

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The purpose of this blog is to examine the different roles women play in children’s media – primarily in Disney films. Many criticisms of Disney exist in regards to representation of race and women. While I plan on exploring both of those topics on my own, I will also reflect on my childhood and how growing up in the so-called “Disney Renaissance” affected my perceptions and expectations of the world. As a white girl, I had no shortage of princesses to identify with. Belle and Ariel were two favorites of mine until Rapunzel came along in 2010 (in all honesty, however, my ALL TIME favorite Disney movie growing up was the Lion King).

 I can’t help but wonder, however, who did little girls of other races have to identify with? Mulan, maybe Jasmine, maybe Esmeralda. But the pickings are slim and representations of their races are problematic for reasons I will get into later. We would be kidding ourselves to think that girls of color do not watch and subsequently are not influenced by Disney films.

So, how are women of color represented in Disney? How are they different from the white women? They act differently, dress differently, and almost seem to operate in a separate dimension than white women. For example, why is Mulan a soldier in full armor on screen, but only marketed to parents and girls in her kimono? Why is Jasmine dressed so scantily compared to the other princesses (not to mention how inappropriate her outfit is for an Arabic princess)? Why does Tiana spend the majority of The Princess and the Frog as a frog instead of as the black woman she is? In addition, I want to explore women of color’s erasure in Disney films. Why was there a charismatic chameleon but no women of color in Tangled? Why was there a talking snow man  in Frozen but not a single woman of color in that film, either?

I will be re-watching Disney movies and investigating such dilemmas. I will be working with a feminist lens with which I am going to employ my knowledge of intersectionality within feminism. I will also be stressing the importance of presenting images to children they can identify with.