The Princess and The Critic

“If I kiss you, you'll become a racially tolerant prince?”

“If I kiss you, you'll become a racially tolerant prince?”

Disney has recently announced proudly that their newest princess will, for the first time, be African American. You might be surprised (as Disney was) to discover that this news has not been received warmly by the African American community. In fact, the term “racism” has been thrown around quite a bit already by several outspoken critics and online bloggers.

Enter Disney’s latest cartoon entry, “The Princess and the Frog.” The princess, now called Tiana, was originally named Madeleine. The script called for characters to refer to her as “Maddy” which critics instantly deemed racist, considering its similarity to the word, “Mammy.” The script also originally listed the princess working as a chamber maid for a white woman. Although this is historically accurate, critics once again cried racism because of its similarity to slavery.

“Finally, here is something that all little girls, especially young black girls, can embrace,” declared a happy-go-lucky Disney executive to CNN. In response to this however, critics have begun to ask the question of why Disney decided to put their first African American princess into a plot where she spends most of the film as a frog.

Another hot issue has been the true race of the fairytale’s prince. Critics are buzzing that his hair, features, and light skin tone portray him as “decidedly non-black,” and thus claim that Disney felt an African American wasn’t worthy of the prince’s title.

Still others claim that the film’s greatest indignation stems from Disney’s choice of setting for the film – New Orleans. Considering the tragedy that befell the city in 2005, critics have purported that Disney minds were showing nothing but insensitivity in choosing this location.

Hang on. While it’s true that Disney should have been prepared to bend over backwards to ensure its first venture into a more diverse territory showed no glimmer of insensitivity, there’s clearly no way to make everyone happy. Some of these allegations are huge leaps that most moviegoers wouldn’t even begin to fathom, and there’s only so much Disney can do with compromising the integrity of the story and being forced back to the drawing board.

Perhaps this cynicism about Disney’s ability to handle diversity stems from the man himself. Walt Disney was rumored to be a religiously discriminatory man. And yes, Disney has a recent history of overlooking potentially racist character portrayals in classic films of recent memory (see reports on: Aladdin, The Jungle Book, and even Dumbo). Or maybe Disney is just that company that everyone loves to hate. It’s also very possible that none of these excuses enter into it, and some critics are just fierce defenders of political correctness.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the allegations and rage, Disney is planning to release this film in time for the holiday season by hook or by crook. So if you fear that this film will reinforce racism in the young and impressionable minds of your children, then just don’t take them, and we’ll see if Disney can still survive the box office – but the odds are good that they’ll leave the theater humming their new favorite Disney tune having simply enjoyed a film about a princess and a frog.

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2 comments to The Princess and The Critic

  • MK

    Actually, upon reviewing the most recent trailer/info I could find, I suspect that Navin actually might be HISPANIC. I am not yet totally sure, but I think if you listen to the voice and look to the design, the character might be able to pass as this….so I say give it a chance.

  • Lauren

    I think it is so insane that people are making such a big deal about racism in this instance. If you twist the facts or look for it, you can find racism/sexism in just about any instance. People need to embrace this movie for what it is- a movie and stop reading into every detail!!!