Monday, March 30, 2009
Acting White: Disney's Black Princess Kisses White Frog
In the fall of 2009 Disney will finally release the long-awaited Frog Princess, renamed to The Princess and the Frog, featuring their first-ever full-fledged black princess. The upcoming makeover of the previously announced animation also includes a renaming of the Princess from Maddy to Tiana, the elimination of her past as a chambermaid to a white socialite, and the addition of Oprah Winfrey as the voice of Tiana’s mother.
All the controversy, however, has not been handled. It seems that the Prince himself is a white-looking guy, with the hint of Spanish in his accent. What? No black prince? What’s up with this?
You can bet there’s going to be a whole lot of yammering from all sides as we near the release date. Black folks will be crying that Disney does not think black-on-black love is marketable to little white girls, or their parents. On the other hand, some white folks will be saying that Disney is trying to push interracial ideas into the head of little white girls (and boys), as part of some PC conspiracy for them to feel bad about their whiteness. I’m leaning towards yammer no. 1, since Disney has historically come down on the side of marginalizing blacks.
On a slightly darker vector, it may be interesting to consider that little white girls associating with Tiana, in Disney’s view, might not swallow the Princess or themselves swooning over a handsome black prince. Or perhaps Disney does not want the future mothers of dwindling white America being imprinted so early in their lives with the notion of a black suitor. Disney may not want to take the blame for an up-tick in interracial marriages in about 15 or 20 years.
These are just a few thoughts on the upcoming debate, sure to get testy. And for the empirical record, my daughter loved Pocahontas, as a 5 year old, and has had an equal amount of black and white boy-crushes over the ensuing years – and I blame it all on Disney. My 13 year old son still falls into Harry Potter-speak, and this is Disney’s fault too, although they had nothing to do with the movie. Disney makes an easy target, as they have been manipulating kids, and parental coffers, from the get-go.
James C. Collier
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Technorati Tags: Acting White: Disney's Black Princess Kisses White Frog, Tiana, Oprah, Interracial, Animation, Acting White
Posted by James C. Collier at Monday, March 30, 2009
Labels: Entertainment, Racism, Sex
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I think your take on it is a little naive. Disney is looking to make money. There are very few white children in America these days, and their parents will take them to see whatever Disney puts out anyway.
So to put the most possible butts in the seats, Disney casts the black Anika Noni Rose and the Brazilian-born hispanic Bruno Campos as the leads. Look at the rest of the cast, too. Terrence Howard, and Oprah Winfrey! The only white person of note is John Goodman.
Disney is realizing that the racial composition of its audience has completely changed, and they're just trying to keep up. The funny part is that people will still cry racism because they didn't choose an all-minority cast for this 200+ year old European folk tale.
Next stop: Snow Black and the Seven Little People, Bambi in the Barrio, and The Latina Mermaid.
I remember reading about Disney putting out a film featuring the its first black princess some time last year. And I must admit, when I read about it I was excited. As you pointed out, all of the Disney princesses have been white. How refreshing to finally see a bit of color!
Regarding the debate about the prince not being black: I think Disney is in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. If they make the prince black, then one side will argue that the film is essentially a "black film" marketed more or less sole to Black America. If they make the prince non-black, then they run the risk of being accused of promoting interracial relationships/ignoring "black love". Honestly, I think Disney decision to have a black princess and a prince with a hint of a Spanish accent is partly financially. The two largest minority groups in America right now are either black or latino. I don't think money was the primary reason they decided to feature non-white characters this time around, but it probably was a consideration.
"I don't think money was the primary reason"
You're kidding, right? Money is always the primary reason, especially with companies like Disney.
Did they change the story line...my understanding was that it was about a creole girl in New Orleans that falls in love with a prince, Disney meets Anne Rices Octaroon ball!
Gee... did they change the story line? My understanding was that it was a 200 year old germanic faerie tale archived by the Grimm Brothers. Why would blacks or new-world hispanics be involved in any way?
I can't figure out how people have such strong opinions about a film they haven't seen yet. People complained about the lack of a Black Princess for years, now I think I understand why Disney hesitated to make the film.
Apparently the prince is Indian, his name is Daveen.
I'm looking forward to this. To the extent that they were ever interested, my girls have pretty much outgrown the princess stuff.
An even better Black Disney "princess" were the live actresses who played Nala at different ages in the stage version of The Lion King.
Could it be possible that it helps Black/Latino relations???
I look at it this way: Why shouldn't/wouldn't a white(-looking) prince fall for a pretty, brown-skinned princess? The standard message for black girls is that our beauty has a peculiar, limited appeal that's restricted to black men and outliers like Robert DeNiro. That's not a healthy message to send either.
Seriously though, the prince looks a like a cartoonized version of Rick Fox to my eyes. His name is "Naveen" -- Sanskrit name -- and he's voiced by a Brazilian actor. I suspect Disney is aiming straight up the middle with an ambiguously-beige, rather than "white" prince.
The only people who stand to get upset over this film are adults. Children do not get wrapped up into color, until we insist that they do. Little girls will be excited over a princess and a prince, period. Why is it we watch every single move in terms of race when it comes to TV and movies and yet we accept nasty, foul lyrics on the radio without batting an eye? Put the race card away for awhile.
Lets look at it this way, why is it OK that in the original Cinderella it was just fine that she was a chambermaid, but now that shes black, it's some sort of racist slant? Or the fact that her suitor isn't black is a problem? questions like these are what continues to propagate racial problems in the US. An attitude of realism and acceptance is what's needed. Everyone, no matter their race experiences poverty, certainly in the current economy, and everyone loves, who cares the color or creed. These are the bases of our divisions but some among us hold so tightly to what has been cast before us as socially accepted norm that they refuse to let these antiquated beliefs die. I for one would like to get past this.
"What? No black prince? What’s up with this?"
Yes, when you yourself can get to the point where the color of the prince's skin (or the princess's, for that matter) is no longer worthy of comment, you can can yourself non-racist.
Minorities complain when there was not a black princess. Now they complain when there is one. Why does race have to enter into everything? It seems that the true racists are the ones that try to find some type of racial undertones in every aspect of society, even if it is not there. Maybe if some of these complainers would take the film as it is meant to be, a childrens fairy tale nothing more and nothing less, there would be more racial harmony in our society. reminds me of the red scare back when there was a communist behind every tree. Get over it people and move on with your lives.
Political Correctness is nothing short of Intellectual Terrorism. In this particular instance, it's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation. Disney, by going out of its way to promote 'diversity' gets nailed by people at both ends of the spectrum. The PC crowd has turned this whole matter into some kind of twisted version of "Where's Waldo?" It seems to me that the Politically Correct crowd are latent racists. Recognizing race doesn't make them a racist. Imagine how dull life would be if everyone was the same? Viva la Difference! Perhaps my ancestry being Cherokee, Sioux and white colors my conclusion? Of course it does and to deny that would be racist.
So Disney made the story about Obama and his wife.
As a mother of a blonde haired, blue eyed WHITE dauther in so-called "dwindling white America" (news to me, BTW), I would prefer to see a black prince but, to be honest, I probably won't take her to see it either way.
It may be politically incorrect for me to say this but I do not agree with or support interracial couples ... regardless of the races involved. Dating/marriage is hard enough without bringing in added pressures of mixed race.
I feel that, whatever Disney's motivation, they are trying to force our children to recognize and accept interracial couples as appropriate. It's just not going to happen in my household.
Anon 7:59, thanks for honestly validating one line of thinking that Disney certainly considered, and I presented (to much hoopla).
I was going to say something but the posters before me pretty much covered it. Its adults that have stupid ideas like this not kids . My nieces and nephews will think nothing of them being black or white. I think people need to worry about themselves more instead of what some characters in a movie,video game or tv show are doing.
ALL OF YOU ARE WRONG. the reason disney doesnt have a black father is because "Some 48 percent of all black children live without their fathers in the home, nearly double the rate of any other ethnic group in the United States."
this is from the washington Post.
Other figure put the figure at more like 70 percent.
Bottom line: Disney isn't racist, they are being realistic (and profitable).
Don't get angry at me. get angry at the Afro-Americans who blame whitey and racism for their problems. they need to take a look in a Mirror first.
Dear Mr. Collier,
I wrote a column for my English class regarding this topic and I would like to share it with you, because I understand your view point, but would like to politely disagree with it.
Here is my column:
It is very rare for Hollywood to feature a multiracial couple in a movie. Whenever a movie involves multiracial couples, it is generally because the entire plot is centered around the difficulties of a multiracial marriage. Hollywood makes it almost appear that humans are incapable of casually falling in love with someone outside their own race. There are few exceptions to this, and within Disney there certainly have not been many.
Except for Pocahontas every Princess Disney has produced has ended the movie being married to a man of the same race. The central plot in Pocahontas, however, involved tensions between two cultures and a multiracial marriage was an integral part of the story line. With that film, Disney was enforcing the image that marriages between different races, or cultures, are fraught with difficulties. Finally, Disney seems to be waking up, and realizing that it really isn’t a big deal to fall in love with someone from a different race.
This year Disney will release the animated film “The Princess and the Frog.” In this film, a Black princess, Tiana, marries an olive-skinned Latino prince. It will be Disney’s first Black princess and a first film where a multiracial marriage casually unfolds. With Disney making the progression to feature this in a film, a person would think that everyone would be excited by the multihued princess and the prince.
Unfortunately, some people have issues with the fact that the prince is not Black like Tiana. "Perhaps Disney doesn't want the future mothers of dwindling White America being imprinted so early in their lives with the notion of a Black suitor,'' blogged James Collier on Acting White, an anti-racism website. Others complained that while there is a Black president, Disney does not seem to want a Black prince. Of these people, I stop and ponder the implications of their statement.
Firstly, the president is a Black man. Not a woman. Having a Black princess over a Black prince seems to be a fair choice.
Secondly, just by the fact that these people are complaining about the marriage, it shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to raise tolerance for multiracial marriages or dating. To me, not having a Black prince is a lot less depressing than knowing that certain counties in the U.S. still have segregated proms. When Black girls are called “cracker lovers” for dating White boys, or White girls called “nigger lovers” for dating Black boys, this shows an issue deeply ingrained into American culture which Disney is trying to break into. Except this is not only a Black and White issue—many parents in the U.S. are opposed to marriages between different religions, races, or cultures. How many parents would willingly let their daughter marry a Muslim boy right now? How many Indian parents, even in the U.S., let their children marry Pakistanis? How many White parents would let their children date Latinos? How many American Chinese marry American Japanese?
There is so much drama over multiracial marriages and so much unnecessary offense taken. People marry for love—not to produce children with a lighter skin tone, not to be saved by Allah or Jesus, not to be demoted in the next cycle of reincarnation.
I am proud of Disney to showcase the marriage of a Black princess and a Latino prince.
OMG now here come the lawsuits now. Where's the Mexican princess, the Irish princess, the Italian princess, Chinese princess??? I'm so sick of all the whining and crying about everyone being racist. It's a sorry excuse for the choices one makes in their life and because crap happens it's easier to blame the white people than take responsibility for your own personal and career choices.
Oh no, the word verification on this form has nortsard. Isn't that close to retard? Who do I blame and cry to and sue for this? LMFAO
Wow. Disney creates a cartoon featuring a black princess and the prince is what? Isn't black enough? Is voiced over by a Brazilian? And now folks are in an uproar?
Welcome to inclusion. Why should Disney be constrained to have a more visibly black male character as the prince? Is Disney now in the business of creating role model characters or are they in the business of story telling (aka entertainment.
Seems to me much ado about nothing. Disney is now being a responsible entity treating characters (or the races they presumably portray) with a sensibility that was demanded for years. To suggest they do more in this instance is silly.
"What? No black prince? What’s up with this?” blogged James Collier on Acting White, an anti-racism Web site, in a posting typical of the general disbelief among the film’s most vocal black critics.
You won't say it, so I will...
There are no black princes and if there were, they would just be baby daddies because black men don't stick around. You are the one being unrealistic and racist.
To Anonymous #1, 10:05 PM,
"There are very few white children in America these days" Really? I'm a white mother. My daughter is 6 months old and I'm seeing white infants and children all over the place. Look more closely.
I'm not racist and I'm certainly not politically correct. I'm a realist. The fact is that the majority of Americans are white and most Disney films have reflected that. Times are changing, though. The minority groups are no longer minor players...I mean, we DO have a biracial president.
Is Disney trying to make money? Of course. It should. Maybe if more corporations tried to make money by catering to the changing social and technological needs of the people, those companies wouldn't be begging for bailouts.
Until I saw the "story behind the story" (that people were freaking out about the black princess and lack of a black prince), my reaction to Disney's new film was, "Oh, okay. Whatever." My response is basically the same as Alden Merrill's: Disney's job is the make films in order to make money, NOT to create role models. Aren't parents in charge of the role model bit? Or are many parents still turning that responsibility over to the producers of movies and television?
Wow anonymous racist up top... interacial relationships arent that big a deal. Im white (very white in fact, absolutely nothing not white in my family going back 4 generations) and my wife is Mexican. OH GOD ITS SO HARD TO BE INTERRACIAL!!!
Seriously if you have a problem with a culture or a skin color than dont worry your daughter wont marry a black/mexican/whatever person because you will make sure it doesnt happen with what you tell her as she grows up. Never giving her the opportunity to fall in love with someone they may be just right for because his skin color doesnt match. Good call.
Regardless of THAT tangent people are making way too much of this film. Shes black, hes... something not black. Looks alot like America to me.
When this no longer bothers people, when she can be a chambermaid and have an accent and be called Maddy, THEN racism is behind us. Until then, everyone has to walk on eggshells to make sure no one gets angry at them. Thats keeping racism alive.
PC is the bane of communication. nothing real can ever be said when you constantly have to phrase what you mean in ambiguous terms.
People like you are never happy. There's a black princess so now you're upset that there's not a black prince. People like you just want an excuse to draw attention to yourself. It's pitiful! Not to mention you now seem against interracial relationships! What was that comment about blaming Disney for your daughter having crushes on black boys and white boys? Who cares!!!! I'm a mixed child, my mother is white and my father is black they've been married for over 37 years! My fiancee is one quarter white three quarters Cherokee. Interracial relationships are beautiful and are a breaking down of racial barriers and you need to get your head out of your narrow minded ass and wake up to the real world and stop being angry for no reason. Race is a misnomer anyway there is only one race, the human race. It's time you wake up and see that.
Wow! Everyone is so serious. Can you not see my tongue in my cheek all over this post? Everybody is unhappy, that's what's fun about the whole thing. Disney cannot win, and its their own damn fault. Hilarious.
"What? No black prince? What’s up with this?"
So much for a post racist America. *snorts*
I think this goes beyond black rights. Why is it an African American male can be paired with a non-black female in media and no one complains? Why is it that only when a black man isn't in the picture it's wrong, but not women?
Cinderella was a chambermaid. But because she was white, that was okay. The first black princess becomes a chambermaid and that must mean slavery.
I can see where you sounded tongue-in-cheek, but if that's the case, please stop other websites from quoting you!
If cheap publicity is really worth scaring Hollywood further into their paranoid shells about blacks in their media, than go right ahead.
But this controversy is a huge part why Disney waited so long for a black protagonist. This may just scare them out of doing it again. And blog posts like yours that don't try to hard to distinguish between real and sarcastic responses don't help.
My sister is dating an African American who grew up in Sierra Leone. She's white. Does this mean black women are not good enough? No. It means love is love, no matter what size, orientation, or color.
I'm excited to see "The Princess and the Frog". I'm also excited to see "King of the Elves" in 2012, which will star a black male protagonist. He is from Mississippi and named Shadrach Jones. He also becomes the king of a nation.
Disney didn't have a black prince, because they know black men should be kings.
I won't be going to see this because I'm a little bit too old for this but it would have been nice to have seen a black prince as well as a black princess.
Why is everyone still so caught up on color...the reality is more and more people are dating interacially so why not depict what is actually happening in the world today....not to mention there are quite a few african americans that are PROUD to be Black though there skin tone may relect a lighter hue...get over it and start to really look at people for who they are...we are not the skin that we are in, we are not the color of our skin--- if you can only qualify your self as a color then you lose your true humanity...when we all die tell me then what color are you?
It's a movie...it's from Disney.
The Native Americans weren't happy about the Pocahontas thing.
The Asian Americans weren't happy about the Mulan thing...
That's beautiful and all but I just want to see a movie and not another attempt at a pointless lawsuit. Kids generally don't care about anything but entertainment from Disney. Quite frankly when I was a kid I didn't care about the issues you all are bringing up. I still don't care right now. Kids don't see color unless someone teaches them to.
It's a movie..... and apparently people are still bitter over the entire race thing. Can I at least get to watch the movie before you ruin it for me? I don't care if the prince isn't black and neither will anyone else who knows we don't watch the movie for the prince. It's all about the princess. How many prince dolls is disney selling? Please... get over it... No one really cares about the prince. I can't even remember the names of the princes from Disney movies but I can tell you that I know the names of the princesses.
Perhaps it is because to accurately portray a black prince Disney would have to include a lot of pointless, wholesale slaughter of his countrymen by his own hand. Charles Taylor, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe; the list goes on.
I agree with Tiffany B. Brown:
I look at it this way: Why shouldn't/wouldn't a white(-looking) prince fall for a pretty, brown-skinned princess? The standard message for black girls is that our beauty has a peculiar, limited appeal that's restricted to black men and outliers like Robert DeNiro.
This is an avenue out of marginalization for black women.
Hey, here's a question: why do we care? Why do we HAVE to care? Is it because we now have a black president? Does that mean everyone suddenly has to be black too? If you ask me, it's just reverse racism (a.k.a. "white guilt") in the works. I'm too excited about the prospect of Disney's return to 2D for minority groups to eff this up with their admittedly ridiculous complaints. This attitude is not born of racism, I assure you - I was always taught that ethnicity didn't matter in a friend - it's just that I don't think it's that big a deal that people have to complain if one guy doesn't look "black enough."
Here's the short and sweet: IT'S JUST A MOVIE. It's not the Bible, it's not a commentary on society. It's just a kids' movie, meant to entertain no matter what ethnic background this or that character comes from. I wholeheartedly agree with the statement earlier - we aren't the color of our skin. Get off your crosses, guys.
Where's the mexican princess disney!!!! Now I am offended lol
Disney doesn't owe anybody ANYTHING. Walt Disney was a white man who built up an empire from nothing! Obviously all of his work (with help of others of course) has WORKED thus being a multimillion dollar corporation.
If an African America (or anyone for that matter) wants to piss and moan about there not being representation of a certain race... then STOP WAITING for a predominantly WHITE owned/ran COMPANY to do it FOR YOU!! Get off your bums and DO IT YOURSELF... you already created a BET TV station... might as well have someone create their own Disney version... rather than depending on whites to do it for you.
I'm not trying to sound racist or inconsiderate, I just believe in doing things for yourself if you aren't happy. Please by all means... go create your own "disney" and deal with all the bull that they face everyday.
And by the way...whites aren't going anywhere or "disappearing" move on already...
Just reading through these comments is making my head spin. Here again we are in the position where the ones who are offended are the ones who have to explain exactly WHY they are being offended (which should be as clear as day if anyone had any real sense about it).
It seems like the majority of people supporting Disney haven't even listened to the other arguments and believe that they are just up against a bunch of irrational and angry black people who need to appreciate what they've been given or STFU. Sound like Jim Crow-era attitudes? Well it is. Lest we forget all the other charming racist depictions Disney has tried to pass off as "post-racial".
I think anyone who has any sense about them would be wise to check out Shannon Prince's essay on the film. If you don't think it's a big deal, it's probably because you've never been the target of any sort of racism and your opinion really holds no ground.
As a black woman I must say that I am very disappointed with and deeply offended by Disney’s new “black” princess. The quotation marks because she does not look “black.” Since when are slightly cocoa women with ideal caucasian features “black?” Racist Disney does not want to acknowledge the true ethnic appearance of a black woman. Where are her big, thick lips and wooly hair? Why is she dressed all up like some kind of rich white girl? How come her true ethnic background is not acknowledged? Where is her leopard-print mini-dress and gaudy jewelry? Hell, why isn’t she a true, lovely African princess wearing a grass skirt, garish facepaint and a big plate in her lip? How come she does not live in a mud hut and eat bugs? And her man!!?? Where is his black skin? What is Disney trying to tell my young daughters? That a black man isn’t who she should be with? Why is he WHITE!? I WILL NOT allow my daughters to see this film.
I am african american and i saw the trailer, i am pretty offended, why the BLACK princess have to be with a white prince? this is certainly not what a lot of blacks want, then why the princess has european features (mouth, nose, etc), why not a real black woman(lips, hair etc)? why is it happening in N.O.(the 911 for blacks, Katrina)? What a poor choice, finally i want to remind that a frog is an animal living in half water, a pretty racist analogy to Katrina blacks living in half water for 1 week. with so much controversy i hope Disney cancels this movie
Hundred of people are going to flock the theater this weekend to see the debut of Princess Tiana. I'll let you be the judge. What's great about America is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we can always agree to disagree. To that end, again I have to say I appreciate Disney for their effort. Nonetheless, I would be remissed if I didn't express my sadness at the finish product. Many folks would argue that we are currently living in a post racial nation; yet I would contend that true progress continues to be slow. It continues to be slow.
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The film is not geared towards white America, it is an attempt to acknowledge Blacks, by retelling a classic story with a racially diverse (interracial) couple.
I don't know why people are up in arms about it, Americans of European descent realize that the characters have been changed in an effort to include Blacks in this well known Fairy Tale.
If I was a Black I would love seeing someone who looked like me in the role of Prince or Princess.
The success or failure (probably not) of this film will depend on how well it is received by mainstream Americans of color, not mainstream White Americans.
i agree with the last comment. our insane desire to "figure out" what race prince naveen is and to react with horror to the fact that he isn't black is unsettling in itself. and all this hysteria surfaced when a picture of the prince came out, before anyone saw the movie, or evaluated his character. which is it what racism towards interracial couples is based on. they see the image of the couple in front on them and are furious.
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Holy crap. Are you all serious? This is so stupid. SO you are saying that this movie is all racist and bad because of the fact that
#1 she was originally supposed to be a chambermaid.
I didn't hear anyone freak out because Cinderella was a servant or that Belle was poor with a crazy father, or tramp was a homeless dog that ran the streets.
Disney markets basically on rags to riches stories. So a chambermaid becomes a princess. How is that bad? It is empowerment, it shows how far not only African Americans have come, but also women. come on. i don't remember feeling inferior when I don't remember feeling the least bit inferior when i watched Cinderella.
#2 She is in a interracial relationship.
If i am not mistaken, not too long ago, interracial relationships were not only frowned upon, but also illegal. They are still frowned upon in some places and by some people today. So what is wrong with showing kids, that "Hey, it is okay to have an interracial relationship. People are people, no matter their skin color."?
Until people stop getting all worked up over skin color, racism will continue. To blacks, to whites, to Latinos, Asians, Middle Eastern, Native American, the list goes on. why do people insist upon making it an issue? If everyone would stop, the issue would be gone.
It is a Disney princess movie, quit making it a Disney conspiracy. And I am sure children get more ideas about skin color from their parents than a movie, I know I did. So maybe set a good example and stop even bringing up the race of the princess, because all that will do is show them that there is a difference, when in reality, there is not. It is just genetic pigmentation, it does not make a person different from another.
I think my head is going to explode before i make it to the moon where i am running to from all this hate!
What upsets me the most is that people are so afraid of 'others'.
Were the white invaders of america a few hundred years ago not others? did they not violently chase native americans off their land and round them up like cattle into reservations?
we are a world of wars and power even though we know that wars and power create more wars - and pain - and hate.
none of this stuff should matter and i am sad that it in reality, to lots of you it does.
i am ashamed of this world we humans have created, off the backs of 'others' and on all our heads now be it.
I still hope for the day where all the princes and princess are all the colours of the racial rainbow, celebrating lgbt relationships too and no one bats an eye.
Who cares, who cares, WHO CARES!!! Do you really think that Disney are being racist by choosing an interracial couple over a fully black one? Grow up, equality is it not mattering what race the guy is. He's of some sort of Indian or Arab descent so he's not white: and amyway why can't a black boy relate to a white prince?
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