“I know now that race culture is, at least in part, perpetuated by unconscious ignorance displayed through modern day media.” Rev. Renee
Walt Disney Pictures Introduced Its First Black Princess to Little Girls in 2009. Maybe They Shouldn’t Have.
Many white people say they are not racist….period.
In light of all that is going on in our society with the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of police, I thought it timely to educate the public about how race culture is taught to children through media.
Walt Disney Pictures has done its part in introducing a number of different cultures to the world in the form of its paradigm-forming movies and animations. They have given us white, asian, hawaiian, middle eastern, indian and black protagonists, however for the purposes of this post, I will focus on the black princess, Tiana, leading lady in the movie The Princess and the Frog.
The #Disney movie is based on a book that was derived from a Grimm’s fairy tale about princesses and frogs, however the Disney version is so different from the original story line, that I’d say it really is a Disney exclusive.
I am unable to ascertain whether or not Disney felt it was –
- being true to African -American culture;
- promoting subconscious current-day cultural thought;
- or simply inserting its own thoughts into the American cultural paradigm.
I will assume, since the Disney version appears to have been written by two white men, that it was likely a combination of all three and I will list clear problems with how Disney subjected African-American girls to a controversial and damaging mind movie.
Walt Disney Interjected at least Eight (8) False, Harmful Assumptions into the Minds of Young Black Girls With the Movie The Princess and the Frog.
Good African-American girls must work twice as hard to get what they want. Nothing will be handed to them, even if they marry a prince.
Tiana’s father James had always longed to own a restaurant featuring the best authentic, cajun cooking. When the little girl Tiana mentioned she wanted to wish upon a star to see her dreams realized, she was quickly corrected by her parents and told that love was the most important thing and that nothing would be handed to her easily. Tiana must work hard to earn everything she would ever receive and this was the way…and the way was good.
Only white girls are born with silver spoons and princess gowns. Be happy in the hood.
Tiana’s mother brought her to an affluent home, where she worked for a wealthy white man called “Big Daddy” due to her being a great seamstress. She was instructed by “Big Daddy” to make the most elaborate princess gowns for his daughter Charlotte, however Tiana was very meagerly dressed, despite her mother’s abilities. This did not bother Tiana’s mother one bit.
When the movie started, and without knowing anything about the plot, I initially thought Tiana’s mother was a slave and that Tiana was the play mate of Charlotte so I did feel uncomfortable since I knew this would be many young black girls’ first introductions to princesshood. (They really need to watch Nollywood on Netflix).
I was also concerned that Tiana would express sadness in leaving the elegant homes and taking the bus to her own rickety neighborhood. Tiana, however was taught to be happy in the hood, and her father made her promise that she would never put success before love/family/what really matters to black people, etc. Tiana remained broke in the hood, working two jobs, well into her adult years.
African Voodoo and Tarot are evil.
Mr. Facilier is a Baron Samedi look alike who works as a local tarot reader and voodoo practitioner. By the way, the word ‘facile’ means simple, easy or slick. In Voodoo, Baron Samedi is a much revered Loa of the Dead, however, in Disney’s movie, Mr. Facilier is an evil trickster who works for the Shadow Man and his shadow demons. All of the images related to Mr. Facilier and voodoo are scary, threatening, evil, dark and frightening.
Additionally, Mr. Facilier starts out with a song about having friends on the other side. Even though that is where our ancestors are, this too is demonized by Disney.
African American Pentecostalism is an eccentric form of christianity mixed with Hoodoo, but it is better to do that than turn to Traditional African Religion!
When Tiana is turned into a frog (because she is NOT a princess), along with middle-eastern/north african looking Prince Naveen, they must turn to 200 year old Mama Odie who is a light worker/hoodoo/churchy old toothless woman who wears white and dresses like an old southern pentecostal. She has a form of narcolepsy, a pet snake named JuJu, stares into a pot of gumbo to divine, sings gospel music with tambourines and tells the future. It is no surprise that Tiana’s name means ‘follower of Christ’ and Naveen means ‘good news or gospel’.
I realize that more African Americans were returning to non traditional spiritual practices during the time this movie was released, with the 2012 Awakening fast approaching, but could this be some last ditch effort to lock the minds of young black girls with the chains of christianity by scaring the Voodoo out of them and making them afraid of the dark and of veneration of the dead or ancestors? What do you think?
Royal Lineages of Color are Quick to Disown Their Children and Use Threats as a Form of Control.
Prince Naveen got off the boat with a fiddle in his hand glad to be free of his parent’s influence. He soon realized that if he did not do everything his parents wanted him to, he would be disinherited and being broke was no fun. Hence, he was willing to make a deal with the devil to get a new fortune, later to recant and be turned into a frog.
Despite his parents apparent attendance at his and Tiana’s wedding, which had a majority audience of people of color, he still had to roll up his sleeves and work with Tiana to personally renovate her new restaurant, which he made Charlotte pay for.
I am a woman of color and if I’d married a middle eastern prince with rich parents (who showed up at the wedding), I’d talk him into making things right with his parents and we’d hire a project manager and general contractor and build from the ground up….just saying.
Black People, Men in Particular, are Drama Kings and Make More Out of Their Sufferings Than is Actually the Case.
Louis the Alligator is an overweight swamp creature (obviously of African descent) who plays the trumpet, loves to eat and cries at the littlest scratch he receives. Throughout the show, each time he receives a booboo or a burr, he calls on his savior friend, the firefly Ray to save him from what obviously is no big deal. This sets up the story for Ray, which I’ll talk about later.
All White Women Want is Their Daddies’ and Husband’s Money and Status.
Charlotte, the only white named female and very spoiled daughter of Big Daddy, is constantly demanding everything her mind conceives she wants at any given time. Big Daddy spares no expense to ensure she has the best that money has to offer despite her bratty ways. She dreams of marrying a rich prince and makes it known that she has no qualms about kissing frogs to get there. In the end, though she misses out on Prince Naveen’s love, she decides to wait on his little brother who is only six years old. All I can say is “wow”.
Those Who Fight For the Freedom of Others Die.
Last, but not least is firefly Ray who is a leader within his clan and comes to the rescue of anyone who needs him. His thick ‘black’ N’Awlins accent is obviously indicative of the fact that he is African American and he is voiced by an African American actor who actually is funny.
There is a certain power to the light of the firefly clan and this light is able to clear away the demons of shadow man. Ray always knows what to do and dreams of falling in love with the most beautiful firefly he has ever seen. This firefly turns out to be a star resembling Venus in the night sky. He does not realize this star is out of his reach and a pipe dream, but everyone else around him does know it.
In the end, poor savior Ray is squashed by his own kind in the form of black Mr. Facilier and he only realizes his dream in death. He is a type of MLK if you ask me.
So there you have it. The writers of this story could have done whatever they wanted with these characters, just as other writers have done with characters such as “SuperGirl”. Instead they have chosen to perpetuate current paradigms and stereotypes in the minds of many young black and white girls alike.
It is my hope that this story will be removed and revised or taken off the market entirely and replaced with something more suitable to where we are headed in the future.