So far Disney’s The Princess and the Frog stands as the only Disney movie to have a black “princess” in its lead role. Considering this fact, this movie seems to really let down the audience, especially in terms of its potential. This movie could have served as a positive model for young black girls growing up in a still largely Eurocentric country.
Disney as a company has had problems with racism, so it’s not the biggest surprise that this movie would be a disappointment. There are still issues with princesses of minority races in their movies – there has yet to be a Hispanic princess and they have chosen to settle with a Chinese princess as a sort of catch-all Asian princess.
Moving to Princess and the Frog, my biggest problem with this movie is the fact that for their only movie starring a black princess, they chose to portray her as an animal for most of the movie. Tiana is only seen as human towards the beginning and at the very end. What message does this send to the young black girls watching this movie? They can’t even view a princess in their likeness for an entire film.
Another fault of the movie that has been pointed out repeatedly is the absence of a Black prince. Prince Naveen has a noticeable Latin accent, straight hair, and a Brazilian voice actor. Not to mention his Disneyworld counterpart is not black.
There’s nothing wrong with interracial marriage in children’s movies (unless it’s in the case of the bastardized account of Pocahontas). But why in this case? Could it be because when Disney develops a prince, they expect their viewers to not only dream about being princesses, but to be with a prince (not in a literal hentai esque way) Did they not want little (white) girls to fantasize about being the princess to a black prince? (Although they were perfectly fine with casting a Afro-Creole man as the villain.)
This almost leads to the next problem of this movie – the inspiration. This movie was based on The Frog Prince, a German tale originally created by the Brothers Grimm. Couldn’t Disney have put in the extra effort to find a traditional African tale? Most of the other Disney tales tend to take place in the country of origin, yet this movie decides to stay in America for their black princess. Did Disney not want to venture into that territory and instead chose a cop-out with a “friendlier” African-American image?
Lastly, Tiana seems to be the only princess who doesn’t end up in a castle with her prince. Although it’s beautiful she ended up fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning a restaurant of her own. However, why is she the only princess to not have her happily ever after living as a princess? Although it is more progressive to show a woman working instead of being at the right hand of a prince, there’s also the problem of Tiana not being seen as a true princess. There’s no castle waiting for her and her (broke) prince.
In conclusion, Disney could have done a better job if they had made a movie based off an African tale starring a black couple that’s human for most of the movie.
Side note – Another interesting conflict is the use of voodoo in this movie. Looking at the villain of the movie “The Shadow Man” Doctor Facillier portrays voodoo as something evil that will lock you into unfortunate curses and for some reason practices tarot reading (a more Romani practice). Mama Odie on the other hand shows a truer side of voodoo; one as more of a form of religion. However, it’s interesting to note the use of color here. Whereas The Shadow Man was enshrouded in black and other dark colors, Mama Odie, the one seen as more kind and moral, was clothed in a white dress. Just try and guess the symbolism here.
All images are from Google. I retain no rights.