Saturday, September 26, 2009

'Princess and the Frog' Controversy

Here's a short and quick article about the controversies that have surrounded and will continue to surround Disney's new film, months before the public has even seen the final cut of the film: Does Disney's 'Princess and the Frog' Deserve the Controversy?

Many of the articles I've seen so far have been more biased than this one by Kevin Polowywhich I consider much more even-handed.

Are the criticisms warranted? Or are the reactions excessive? Depends on how you look it at. There are some reasonable questions being asked: In a film set in 1920s New Orleans, where most of the characters are black, why isn't the prince? Why make the princess clearly culturally definable, yet the prince ambiguous? After 70 years of white princes, doesn't the black community deserve a prince to call their own? (And no, we count neither Prince Akeem nor the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in this argument.)

But at the same time, shouldn't we credit Disney for diversifying their portfolio and promoting interracial relationships? Won't this scenario help teach our kids about racial tolerance? Aren't we all just overreacting here? After all, this is an animated movie for kids about people who transform into frogs; the main characters even spend most of their screen time as reptiles. So should race even be an issue here?

I'm admit I'm curious as to the choice of princes for the film, racially ambiguous is a questionable choice. Should we say, boo, no black prince from Disney yet? Or hooray for tolerance of interracial couples? Very, very curious.

Then again, I'm fascinated with the entire interpretation of the story. Disney isn't known for sticking to the originals very well, but this one perhaps wins the prize for their most wildly interpreted fairy tale.

In the end, I am curious to see how well the movie does at the box office and with merchandise sales. I imagine they will be fairly strong although I wonder about Christmas sales since the movie isn't getting a nationwide November release. I'm not understanding all the marketing choices for this film, to say the least.

In the end, I predict those who always support and love Disney will continue to do so and vice versa with those who don't worship the Mouse House. So far, I'm most surprised there aren't more non-Disney Frog Prince related books and such being released to ride the Disney wave.

Either way, I expect lots of conversation. The article I reference above is just a few days old and already has over 1,500 reader comments on it.


  1. After all, this is an animated movie for kids about people who transform into frogs; the main characters even spend most of their screen time as reptiles. So should race even be an issue here?

    I think the author of this article is missing the point that it is important for children to see Princess Tiana as a human because she is Disney's major representation of a young black girl. Why wouldn't Disney want to show her off as much as possible? I think depicting her as a frog for the majority of the film undermines the progress Disney is supposedly making with this film.

    The trailer for The Princess and the Frog does worry me. One of the songs used in the trailer is about how "it doesn't matter what you look like." Now, this could be about how personality should count more than looks, but I wonder if this entire movie will be a metaphor for race. If it is, why does the story have to be about race? Why can't it just be a story that happens to have a black princess? I haven't lost all hope for the movie, but my hopes are not high at the moment.

    I also find it interesting that Disney is following up The Princess and the Frog with Rapunzel, the whitest girl ever.

  2. From what I've read, a lot of the argument stems from Disney's choice to use this particular fairy tale (and their interpretation of it) to have the first black princess. The unfortunate things with this are many: because of Disney's spin on the tale, this princess, who Disney just so happened to make black, happens to be a frog for part of the movie and therefore, the benefits of her being black are a bit moot.

    I'm not going to give Disney the malicious credit of saying they chose to make this princess black because she wasn't going to get a lot of screen time where she wasn't a frog and therefore the audience would hardly get to see her skin color.

    But it's been an overall interesting discussion... Jasmine & Pocahantas were Princesses of color, too, but I was too young then to have remembered any controversy that might have come up as a result of those choices (putting aside the historical negligence for the Pocahantas choice).

  3. Controversy aside, the writer of that article needs to get their animals straight. Frogs are amphibians, not reptiles.

  4. At the same time, look at Sleeping Beauty - of all the princess, she has the least amount of lines because she spends the majority of the film asleep. I don't think the turning into a frog thing should be an issue. From the sneak peeks I've seen, she seems like a strong role model.

    I'm excited for the movie. I work at the Disney store and it's wonderful to see all the little kids, black and hispanic and white and asian, getting excited for a new princess, regardless of her skin color.

  5. As soon as i saw the previews for this movie i was super excited to see a black Disney tale coming out, and I had immediately planned on taking my young siblings to see it. However, when I saw that the main characters are frogs for the majority of the movie, i was very upset. i dont know if white people could really understand what it would mean to a young black girl to have a princess who looks like her. i dont know why, but it seems like the white community thinks racial matters are a thing of the past. they're not a thing of the past, it's just not as blatant. regardless of what went on with other princess' "of color" (giggling to myself) because although not exactly politically correct through and through they were still not as offensive as having a black princess who is not even human half the movie. also, sleeping beauty may have been asleep for some of the movie, she was at least still herself. The voodoo and alligator sidekick aren't an issue to me, but i feel robbed about the princess being an animal for most of the film. i think another fairytail should've been picked, they could've even made up a story for all I care. they tried, but i'm not going to go see it.

  6. My sister found clips from the movie's songs on some website, and one of the songs is called "When we're Human", which reminds me of "I wanna be like you" from the Jungle Book (King Louis was voiced by a black man), about a monkey who wants to be human. It seems there's a theme here that Disney is insinuating black people aren't even human.

  7. Excuse me Anonymous, I am Native American and Pocahontas was extremely offensive to my family and culture, don't down play it. Native American STILL experience ridicule where other races have triumphed.
    To be politically incorrect (meaning true). I believe everyone, (including other minorities) tried to wipe us out.

    Maybe she's a frog, oh my goodness, that's surprising for a Disney movie [/sarcasm]
    She's still appears to be a strong role model and a good believer of whats right. At least you have that!

    Our "princess" however (there's no such thing as a native princess, its just a lot of hype now) is a complete misrepresentation of what it means to be Native American (right down to the clothes she's wearing, no respectable Native Women of power would wear such a thing).

    Do don't downplay the fact that we are STILL trying to fight for rights you already have.

  8. This 'PRINCESS FROG the story of maddie' movie is
    not acceptable. Its disturbing how hollywood producers suddenly throw in a black princess during the Obama era, such hypocrites, they don't care about the black cause except to make money, they are a group of White people who probably send their kids to expensive private schools with as little black kids as possible. Do not see this movie.

  9. 1. Native Americans have more rights than non-native Americans. I can't start a casino on "my" land, nor can I sell products without paying taxes. Remember, if it had been the Spaniards or French who took over, don't be so sure they wouldn't have wiped the native goups out.
    2. Re: the new black princess controvery. Get over it. Regardless of what Disney did, there would still be haters. Stop hatin'.
    3. A follow-up with the "whitest princess ever"? So what's wrong with that? Should Disney have slowly moved back to white? Should they have gone through stages? Shouldn't there be a lesbian princess? Or why not a lesbian black princess who used to be a prince? See #4 below.
    4. A. Movie comes out.
    B. See movie or not.
    C. Tell friends you like it or not.
    D. Done.
    5. Where is Song of the South, which depicted Uncle Remus as a gentle loving black man with white friends? Disney fears the movie that depicted life as it was, but many of you praise gangsta MTV videos for the supposed accurate depictions that they represent.
    6. Out.

  10. I don't see what everyone is up in arms about. It's a childrens cartoon about love and magic.
    Thats it. Stop making it out to be more than it is!!

  11. If she were white, would this even be an issue? I am so sick and tired of race being an issue in everything. It's a movie. See it, don't see it but move on America. It's not that serious. So what she's a frog in most of the movie. Why should we really care???? it's a CARTOON. Do you really think your children are going to want to boycott the movie just because she's a frog? Let's not get our panties in a bunch.

  12. Whoa! I'm white and I found Snow White very offensive. Sorry, but this whole fiasco over it is way out of proportions. Its a Disney movie, natually meaning everyone is going to be picking up on EVERY-SINGLE-DETAIL. Let's leave it for the little kids to decide.

  13. What disappoints me is that the story did not utilize the highest titled black in the Monarchial Hierarchy in Europe: Princess Angela of Lietchentstein (or was it beacause she is Afro-Panamanian, raised in New York)