Disney's First Black Fairy Tale: More Frog than Princess


It was déjà vu all over again for me. It was Christmas, my two young bi-racial nieces were in town for Christmas and we decided to all go see Disney's new Princess & the Frog movie. To be candid, I thought it was the worst fairy tale I have ever seen in my life. I walked away disturbed and frankly dismayed as a modern 21st century black woman.

The problem with this movie (and there were many) is that it was Disney's first black fairy tale, and like many of you I was eager to see a black girl land her Prince, live in a big palace, have servants, dance at the ball, and live happily ever after.

Boy was I disappointed.

I was deeply troubled by the images of black 1920s & 30's New Orleans segregation and economic deprivation, a black father who worked hard and died too young, black spinsters, voodoo priestesses, smarmy black male charlatans, a Prince who was not black but from India or some other place from afar - oh, and by the way, the Prince is broke ya'll. Say what?? I said the Prince is broke and has to get a job because his parents disowned him. Isn't that just wrong?!

My brother and I just kept looking at each other during the movie, shaking our head. Then, when the young lady turned into a frog when she kissed the frog -- I was through -- too through. Yes, in the end she gets her Prince and she is a Princess, but did I mention the Prince was broke? Yup that's right, no money at all.

This movie seemed to be released with perfect timing as we now have a glamorous black first family & lovely brown skinned first lady in the White House. We watch them live out the real life version of the Cosby decade that so many of us came of age in during the 1980s and early 1990s every day on our TV's. And as black women, particularly as accomplished black women we all take great pride and joy in seeing Michelle have a very successful handsome black man who can give her everything she ever dreamed of.

Finally, much like my dismay over Disney's 2007 Enchanted, where the pretty white cartoon fairy tale princess becomes a real life figure (Amy Adams) who finds herself lost in New York City falling in love with a single-dad lawyer (Patrick Dempsey), the images in the Princess and the Frog were also stereotypical and degrading of black women. In Enchanted you had two angry, large sized irate black women - one yelling at the Prince and threatening him with violence on a bus, the other angrily seeking a divorce.

In Princess, all the images are re-ingrained into a new generation of black girls psyche--single attractive black woman, works hard, wants a business, can't afford it, gets swindled, is alone, does not date, has no fun, is stoic, stern, a chastening rod for the frivolous playboy Prince, ends up in the swamps as an ugly frog, running for her life from evil, broken dreams, etc. Is there any need to go on?

In the final analysis, I am proud of Anika Noni Rose for landing this historic role, and I understand that this movie is set in a segregated 1930s southern time frame -- BUT, our little girls deserve better than the same old work hard, be a strong black woman, men aren't important, I can make my dreams come true alone without any help nonsense that has wrecked so many of us to this very day.

Cross-posted from Race-Talk.