There has been a lot of talk about "Disney's first black princess". Several critical race theorists have commented negatively on the fact that the main character, Tiana, is not really a princess and her would-be prince, Charming, "is not a man of color". People who took a closer look also questioned the racist narratives behind making her a cook and her mother a seamstress. And as critical racial theorists blasted the film's not-so-hidden racial messages, white feminist bloggers and white mom bloggers began to complain about the problematic nature of the princess costume that Disney is selling young girls. While her critique was one in a long line of critiques emanating from the multiculturalism in early childhood education movement and the feminist literature movement, the scope and consistency of this critique seemed suspect, given what white feminists were so eager to write about debunking princesses. that when the first black ones appeared one in Disney history was added. The hype from both camps seemed destined to doom this movie to a limited release and even more limited commercial success. Those of us who educate the media were particularly concerned about the implications, as the failure of a black princess would be just as racist as the discussion surrounding her.
With that in mind, me and some black academic friends went there.The princess and the Frogthis afternoon. And despite all the hype surrounding and disparagement of the film, both myself and the film's children's audience were pleasantly surprised.
myths and facts
Before embarking on a proper review, it seems only fair to dispel some of the misinformation surrounding the film.
Mythos: Tiana is not a princess and she is the only non-princess in the history of Disney princesses
facto: Some of Disney's most beloved princesses took the same dark path to the princess that Tiana follows in this film: Cinderella and BelleBeauty and the Beast🇧🇷 Like these women, Tiana starts out as an ordinary young woman and becomes a princess by marrying a prince. (However, that doesn't excuse rewriting the fairy tale in a way that seemingly punishes Tiana for going beyond her life stage, a remark actually made to her in a different context in the film.)
Mythos: The prince, Prince Naveen, is white
facto: Prince Naveen hails from Maldonia, a fictional place that allows Disney to sidestep the racial issue. Naveen's skin is light brown, just like his parents, the King and Queen. He is also voiced by Bruno Campos, a Brazilian actor living in the United States who has made a name for himself playing mostly Latino characters.
Mythos: Tiana is a cook (implicitly a servant of rich whites)
facto: Tiana is an aspiring restaurateur and waitress who works for a black-owned coffee shop. She makes binets for her childhood friend Charlotte's Mardi Gras party because it gets her admission to her restaurant.
Mythos: This is another old-fashioned Disney princess tale that encourages girls to be beautiful and married rather than successful.
facto: Tiana's father teaches her that she should dare to dream but always work hard, and she even sings a song about hard work as one of her few songs in the film. While the implications are racist in many ways, they run counter to a sexist princess narrative. While she considers giving up her dream of owning a restaurant for Prince Naveen, which is problematic, she ends up working towards having both, even though both seem unattainable. (And as my mother pointed out on the phone last night, Tiana doesn't even want to be a princess, her friend Charlotte does, and Charlotte's pursuit of princess status is a running gag in the film.)
Tiana and her friend Charlotte la Bouff grew up together in New Orleans and dream of fairy tales and happy endings. Though their lives intersect through the skilled work Tiana's mother does for the La Bouff family and the resulting friendship between the girls, they live two very different lives. Once they reach adulthood, Tiana hopes to fulfill her dream of owning a restaurant that showcases not just her cuisine, but the music of New Orleans and "brings the community together from all walks of life." Charlotte wants to be a princess. And when their two dreams intersect, the two girls find themselves face to face with a prince. Tiana's journey turns her into a frog, where she and her frog prince go through the trials of swamp and vodoun to discover what their hearts' true desires are and how they can become better people.
Meanings of race and gender (& class)
Tiana lives with her loving father and mother in what appears to be a lower-middle-class neighborhood. Her father, a World War I veteran, worksseveral jobs to save up for a restaurant, and teaches Tiana how to cook. He dies before he can afford the restaurant, but not before passing the dream on to his daughter. Both he and Tiana's mother teach her the value of hard work and kindness.
Charlotte La Bouff, on the other hand, was born rich and almost spoiled by her "Big Daddy" father. She has a plethora of princess dresses to wear, made by Tiana's mom, and gets everything she asks for: puppies, kittens, parties, etc. , with cheeks like an angel, dressed in pink, empty and possessed by a prince. She is so obsessed with marrying a prince that she ignores all signs that she is about to marry a crook and even resigns herself to waiting for a 6 year old to come of age to marry him. (A joke written by waving all kinds of flags.)
While she is clearly a parody of the ancient princess myth that is Disney's bread and butter, she is also a disturbing racial figure. In many ways, it seems that the authors ofThe princess and the Frogare less satirical, with Charlotte's rosy skin and bright blonde hair rolled up in a bundle of ignorance, ignorance and "one day my prince will come", and quite unable to imagine them seeing Tiana as an alternative or more authentic one could accentuate their princess figure without fooling its white counterpart. Instead of criticizing the non-existent princess narrative of Tiana's plot, mainstream feminists should enter the realm of intersectionality and question whythis binary exists. How can you perpetuate the failure of sisterhood between the races, relying on a model of superiority and inferiority, where a group of women will always be a joke? And how is this joke undermined by racial and class narratives that see Charlotte achieve her goal of becoming a princess while Tiana is reduced to a slime-producing frog at various stages of the film? (Even at a costume ball, where Charlotte is clearly dressed as Cinderella, Tiana wears the costume of a lowly maid, as if not even in her wildest dreams had there been room for her at the princess's table; which goes against the film's purpose or dreams of success and community building, which are central to Tiana's character.)
Despite this, Tiana and Charlotte manage to hold their own in this film. When Tiana is literally pushed into her seat by two white real estate agents and then falls through her Binet window and lands on the floor covered in food, Charlotte snaps out of her cloud of princess dreams long enough to help Tiana out and make her a real princess. get costume to wear from your collection. And when Prince Naveen tells Charlotte that he really is in love with Tiana but is going to marry her anyway to help Tiana get her restaurant, Charlotte rejects the deal and instead offers to help the lovers get get together because she wants Tiana to be happy. That kind of friendship, while problematic in its class and ignorance, is still more than what is often offered to us in rich white relationships.Black and working class women who have worked for them at some point, especially when a man is involved.
As for Tiana, she finds that Charlotte's dreams of becoming a princess and her class privilege blind her to just how disproportionately fun her life is. She wants her friend to be very happy and really helps her find a prince. As she and Prince Naveen begin to develop feelings for each other, Tiana, out of loyalty to Charlotte, does her best to fight her. While we may question how these gender choices are evaluated and ranked, I think it's important to recognize a plot point that encourages girls to do so, in a world where most movies and music (Taylor Swift, Avril Levin, etc.) pre-teens to compete and steal each other's boyfriends/love interests.
Disney made it a goal to tell everyone how much effort they put into learning and recreating the culture(s) of New Orleans for this film. In many ways, this is where they really nail the race, while also continuing the aforementioned individual narrative. Both Big Daddy la Bouff's youthful pomposity and Tiana's family dignity speak for NOLA. Disney gives us an African American communityFull of good and bad vodouns, upper, middle and working class people and neighborhoods with that quintessential New Orleans connectivity. The diversity in the black community in this film is probably the best Disney has to offer, and certainly more than most young people on publicly funded non-made-for-television children's shows.
Although I was initially dismissive of Mama Odie's inhuman-looking traits, Movie Line actually has a post that references her appearance as "the mascot of the popular turn-of-the-century pantry product, Mama Odie's Sambocakes and Waffle Batter’ her character’s mix of humor and old-fashioned advice is perfect. Almost everyone in the black community, at least those with southern roots or childhoods who lived in black communities for a long time, knows an elderly person like Mama Odie. She is also a clear foil to the Shadow Man at the center of the story. Where he represents those who use vodoun to do evil, Mama Odie uses his connection to the spirit world only for good and guidance. Her character is a critical intrusion on Vodoun's existing negative image in popular media. In audiences where I saw the film, it also helped to take some of the "scary" out of the film for young viewers. My only real complaint about Mama Odie is Disney's lazy recycling of Sir Hiss as Mama Odie's sidekick, a creature who at one point kisses her with his tongue (eww) and who facilitates jokes about her poor eyesight on others.
There are very few white people in this movie. Their diversity is less recognizable as most are upper class and also caricatures. While some moments, like the racist and classist interaction Tiana has with her potential realtors, ring true, others seem to accept the aforementioned binary.
Perhaps the most complicated of the film's whites comes from Prince Naveen's servant, Lawrence. Like typical Disney "servants", Lawrence begins the film trying to balance all of the Prince's needs, while being taken for granted.Unlike many of his predecessors, when Lawrence is given the chance to impersonate Prince Naveen and gain wealth and power for himself, his kindhearted, scolding, and hard-working demeanor gives way to class antagonism and bitterness. Lawrence and Dr. Facilier, the shadow man, are two sides of the same coin. Both are working-class people who reject the easy life of the rich and seek an even simpler solution to rectify their class status. Both have allowed the resentment stemming from real class antagonism, and their own failure to challenge it, to tarnish the way they see the world and the people around them. And both have made deadly deals to get what they're not willing to work for. While this provides some of the strongest class criticism Disney has offered us in similar fairy tales (Robin Hood aside), it also perpetuates the Bootstraps mythos that permeates the film. The notion that hard work alone will change the class structure, especially in New Orleans, is ludicrous, and Disney does very little to really challenge the issue while providing us with a veneer of criticism.
Both the Cajun fireflies and Tiana's family represent the opposite end of the working-class spectrum in the film. Both are hardworking and loyal. However, they represent a return to the simpler versions of the "poor nobles" that often permeate Disney films. Worse, all Cajun fireflies have some version of crooked teeth, or tooth decay, which debunks some of the worst stereotypes of working-class white people on the bayou. But they're also really compelling characters. For one, there's a moment of the Bambies mom who left the kids in the audience where I saw the movie in tears; At least one group of girls asked their mother to leave the theater before the Bambie moment, anticipating it, and I heard one of them say, "This is going to make me cry, I want to go, I want to go right now!" 🇧🇷
Sadly, perhaps the only real flaws in this film are the music and an extended Saarje-Bartmen moment. The songs in this film range fromdemanding to easy in musical style. The children in the audience, who were the majority, only started to sing along once and at least once they were completely uninterested in the music. I can't say whether this is evidence that Disney chose a more sophisticated musical and visual palette for certain sequences, or evidence of the radical changes in the NOLA music scene as a result of Katrina. What I do know is that for a studio that makes its living mixing music and image, sometimes this movie just doesn't resonate.
There is also an ongoing "Big Butt" joke in this film. Lawrence is a handsome servant whose large features are proportionate when white. However, when he transforms into our brown prince, there are times when the magic stops working and Lawrence's butt expands to ridiculous proportions compared to the rest of his body. His big butt is meant to make us laugh and is a major sign that he is inappropriate and/or an imposter. Later, a Cajun firefly will sing a song about its big glow in the dark ass and refer to it constantly. While his Cajun identity means he is meant to be read as white and his light is essential in helping them get through the swamp in the dark, the ass jokes are once again intended to brand him as backward - lower class, less educated, etc. the link between phenotype and legitimacy is often an issue, but the particular reference to big butts, unheard of in any other Disney film, seems an inevitably garish stereotype associated with Saarje Bartman's "comic" performances.
As usual, there are no queer characters in this movie. Instead, Disney offers us a homophobic joke at the beginning of the film. Tiana is riding the streetcar when her seatmate decides she's so pretty he wants to get her a flower. As he turns to pick up the flower, she exits the tram, leaving her seatmate to turn around, only to seemingly offer the flower to a tall man standing next to Tiana's seat. The man frowns with all the homophobia a cartoon without speech can have, and the other man shrinks back in his chair. I'm not sure why filmmakers continue to use short, totally unrelated harrowing gags as filler in their movies, but telling the story isn't just wrong, it's completely unnecessary. Give us real gay characters or none please.
Despite my misgivings about this movie, I really enjoyed it.The princess and the Frog🇧🇷 What works right really works and whatis fake is usually minor but notable. Despite the largely white feminist critique of the film as a wishy-washy princess daydream, Disney really offered us a strong, independent woman who never gives up on her own dreams of success for stereotypical dreams of marriage and princess status. Tiana becomes a princess by default, not on purpose, and the movie is very clear about her real dreams and her real accomplishments. Unlike other Disney princesses, Tiana doesn't save the prince in reverse. On that level, this is a good movie for young women looking for ways to become confident women.
Critical race theorists have some cause for concern, as does anyone invested in the deconstruction of class, but not for any of the reasons that have circulated the internet. Many of the racial flaws in this film are actually those of the white characters, not the black ones, and the black characters' flaws are more than offset by the positives. There's certainly room for improvement on all sides of the color line in this movie, but I'd caution against scrapping it all together. My audience was mostly young white kids and they were captivated and invested in Tiana.Charlotte did the right thing when Prince Naveen tried to negotiate with her. For me, that makes this movie worthy of support because she is Disney's first black princess, and this princess has the same narrative impact on children, regardless of race, as any white person. Given that Hollywood separates movies, advertising, and even funding from adult-oriented films, Tiana's multicultural impact cannot be understated.
In the end, I got emotional with the characters, cried with "Babie's mother" and cheered for Tiana along with all the young people in the theater. And when the movie ended, each of those kids and many of their parents clapped. Equally important to me, some young black women left the theater before me and my black academic group got up to leave. They stopped and looked at her for a brief moment and then smiled. While I see Disney's Black Princess as important in the transition to ending racism in this country, exactly where the Black President is downplaying or avoiding the discussion of race, it was still a very insightful moment.
The Princess and the Frog is now available in a large version. You can see it in most movie theaters. If you haven't seen it because of internet slurs, you should go and then stop by and let me know what you think.
All images copyright Disney Corporation co 2009 except final images which are fan art created by David Kawena on Deviantart.org
Is The Princess and the Frog a good movie? ›
An entertaining and vibrant film. The Princess and the Frog is a real feel-good movie, with that magical mix of realism and Disney charm, characters that resonate, and gorgeous animation. A timeless classic, The Princess and The Frog is magical, simply magical.What age is Princess and the Frog appropriate for? ›
Common Sense Media recommends The Princess and the Frog for children age six and older due to some scary scenes, the death of one important character, and a strong voodoo subplot.Why is Princess and the Frog the best movie? ›
This film marks a return to the old style Disney. There's dazzling hand-drawn animation, colorful characters, talking animals, a princess, a prince charming, a spooky villain and lots of good music. In short, everything that you used to love about Disney movies.What is the message of The Princess and the Frog? ›
The globally popular story of the 'Princess and the Frog' is a fairy tale that carries a wonderful moral. The moral is to accept everyone regardless of their looks! This bedtime story is about a prince who is cursed by a witch and turned into a frog.What is the most viewed Disney Princess movie? ›
Which, if any, of the following Disney princess movies have you ever watched?
|Characteristic||Share of respondents|
|The Princess and the Frog||21%|
If there's a single princess that is the Disney Princess it might be Cinderella. Her castle stands in the middle of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and the story itself may be the best known of all western fairy tales.
- #1. Pinocchio (1940) 100% #1. ...
- #2. Zootopia (2016) 98% #2. ...
- #3. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) 98% #3. ...
- #4. Dumbo (1941) 98% #4. ...
- #5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) 97% #5. ...
- #6. Moana (2016) 95% #6. ...
- #7. Aladdin (1992) 95% #7. ...
- #8. Fantasia (1940) 95% #8.
- #1. Toy Story 2 (1999) 100% #1. ...
- #2. Toy Story (1995) 100% #2. ...
- #3. Finding Nemo (2003) 99% #3. ...
- #4. Inside Out (2015) 98% #4. ...
- #5. Toy Story 3 (2010) 98% #5. ...
- #6. Up (2009) 98% #6. ...
- #7. Toy Story 4 (2019) 97% #7. ...
- #8. Coco (2017) 97% #8.
The top two highest-grossing franchises, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars, are both owned by Disney.What does Tiana represent in princess and the frog? ›
Tiana gives black girls the chance to finally see themselves as royalty in mainstream media. However, proper representation of black girls should manifest on and off screen, so there is still plenty of work for Disney, and other animation studios, to do.
What is the phrase Prince Naveen says? ›
"Achidanza," a word Naveen says in the made-up language of Maledonian, means, "cool!"Why did the prince get turned into a frog? ›
Due to being new in the city, he is persuaded by the shady Dr. Facilier into taking a tour of his office, which results in a curse transforming him into a frog.What is the villain from Princess and the Frog? ›
Dr. Facilier, also known as “The Shadow Man,” first materialized in “Princess and the Frog” in 2009.Does Princess and the Frog have scary parts? ›
This is a good movie, although it might scare younger kids(it scared me when I was little). It has some voodoo type things in it, which can be scary. There's a dark and creepy spell involved, and the shadow man gets sucked into a grave, but there's no gore or anything.Is the movie it appropriate for a 7 year old? ›
Great film, but not for kids under 13
I recommend this film to everyone who loves slightly disturbing films and TV shows like me but for anyone under the age of 13 you really should not watch it. It's very gory and contains adult language.
- Mulan. A favorite Princess since 1998, we've had almost 25 years to enjoy Mulan as a leading lady. ...
- Belle. ...
- Moana. ...
- Rapunzel. ...
- Mulan (Mulan) Mulan has an incredible style, which is totally different from every other Disney Princess. ...
- Jasmine (Aladdin) ...
- Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) ...
- Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
- The Little Mermaid (1989) ...
- Aladdin (1992) ...
- Mulan (1998) ...
- Snow White and The Seven Dwarves (1937) ...
- Tangled (2010) Image Source: Yardbaker. ...
- Frozen (2013) Image Source: IMDb. ...
- Moana (2016) Image Source: The New York Times. ...
- Beauty and the Beast (1991) Image Source: Disney.
The First Generation (1937-1959):
This period is the foundation of the 'Princess' genre as a whole. In this generation, Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Sleeping Beauty (1959) were created.
It turns out that across the globe, Cinderella is the most popular Disney princess.
What is Disney's darkest movie? ›
Arguably the darkest film in the entire Disney animated canon is the 1996 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The movie opens with Frollo killing Quasimodo's mother and attempting to kill an infant Quasimodo before he's forced to stop. He attempts to atone for the sin of murdering Quasimodo's mother by taking the boy in.What is America's favorite Disney movie? ›
Some of our discoveries caught us off guard: We love animals—38 states favored a film with an animal protagonist. With the support of 17 states, The Lion King (1994) is America's favorite Disney classic, hands down.What was Walt Disney's favorite movie? ›
According to his IMDB facts, his favorite films produced were Bambi (1942) and Dumbo (1941), with Fantasia (1940) and Mary Poppins (1964) in close second.What is the least liked Pixar movie? ›
"Cars 2" is currently the lowest-rated Pixar film, but even critics who panned the movie still found a few things to like about it.What is Pixar's least successful movie? ›
While the 2015 entry The Good Dinosaur scored more positive reviews than Cars 2, it stands as the studio's lowest-grossing film in history by far—which is even more striking when taking into account that Pixar films released over a decade earlier, without the benefit of 3D ticket prices, made more money.What is the highest grossing Pixar movie of all time? ›
“The Incredibles 2” — the next chapter in the story of a superhero family trying balance raising kids with saving the world — is Pixar's highest-grossing title at the global box office, bringing in more than $1.2 billion worldwide.