Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown"

I am so very late to this because I've been working a lot, much like Princess Tiana.

I went in to see Disney's Frog Princess movie with great anticipation. A new Disney movie, the first one featuring an African-American princess--how could I not be excited?

So when I found lots of things I was not crazy about, it was not because I went in focused on being critical.

First of all, the songs were so-so. I've walked out of most Disney fairy tale films singing a song, but this movie had no memorable songs. As someone who can hear a song once and pick up most of it, I was disappointed that none of the songs in this movie stuck with me.

And I couldn't help but notice Disney decided to get "real" with this movie. With the exception of Cinderella, I don't know that I've seen a Disney movie princess who had to work so hard.

The Disney-fication of early 20th century New Orleans was good for the kids, I guess, but it didn't work for me. Tiana's mother is a seamstress for a wealthy white family and though you see the disparity between the employer's mansion and Tiana's humble home, little is said about it how things got to be that way.

Tiana is a "playmate" to her mother's employer's daughter and due to Tiana's good nature and Disney's decision to grant the spoiled heiress a heart of gold, their relationship is less complicated than such dealings might have been in real life.

And when Tiana's entrepreneurial efforts are thwarted, she is told that it is because of her "background," although again, it is Disney so no one delves into what her background is. I'm looking at it critically, but I guess this is progress for Disney. After all their first attempt to include African-inspired themes in a major cartoon only involved animals. The Lion King was an amazing movie, yet it allowed them to play it safe, in some ways. Plus, the princess in this movie spend a lot of her time as a frog.

But back to what I alluded to at the beginning: Tiana works hard for the money. So hard for it honey. She is not a lady-in-waiting hoping to be rescued. And although her prince is less than industrious at the beginning, he proves himself to be supportive and willing to help her with her dreams of running her own business.

I know this is modern life, but for me that was no fairy tale. Black women in America work hard and have done so ever since we arrived. Tiana works and works to save up only to see her dreams derailed because of her "background." And then her future prince is a spoiled rich boy who just wants to have a good time. Yeah, he redeems himself, but how many times have we seen that story--hardworking woman (of any color) hooks up with a guy who wants her to 'lighten up' while he continues to lay around?

Some people have applauded the movie because Tiana is so very enterprising and I get it. She is a great modern role model for young girls. Yet, being who I am at this particular juncture of history, I keep wondering why a sista can't get carried off to a castle where she will presumably be waited on hand and foot?


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MMS said...


I walked out of the theater the first time thinking, "It's a start, honey!" And I meant it.

At the time this movie came out, it was late 2009 and we had YET to see a Disney movie about Black folk. (I won't hold my breath waiting for a Latina princess.) So, while it was deeply flawed (how come sistah girl gets the broke, lazy prince??), it was a start. At least, we CAN be princesses now.

What I really loved was the fact that they cast Anika Noni Rose as the princess. She is a real woman, with a real nose, a real mouth and real color. Not to say that Black people can't be light, or with more Caucasian features, but I'm tired of ONLY seeing that on t.v., in the movies, in the videos, etc.

So, say it with me -- IT'S A START, HONEY! :-)