Disney’s First Black Princess Has a Wha…White! Latino? Prince
I can’t even figure it out myself. From Bossip.com late yesterday afternoon came word that Princess Tiana, heavily marketed as the first black Disney princess in their animated tale opening this winter, The Princess and The Frog, has a rather racially indeterminate prince.
Maybe you can figure it out, but I have a good idea that he’s just a Ken doll dipped in a vat of caramel-colored paint. Tiana, though, is cute.
The story line is pretty basic for anyone who hasn’t gone through kindergarten.
Although set in 1920s New Orleans it is an adaptation of the classic tale The Frog Prince.
In the Disney version, Prince Naveen is turned into a frog by a voodoo magician and asks Princess Tiana to kiss him to break the spell.
But she turns into a frog and the pair must reverse the spell, while in true fairy tale tradition, they fall in love.
You would think that the guys over at the Mouse House and Pixar would be a bit more sophisticated by now. That they would have delivered on a black prince for the little girls (and even big girls) to moon over. Can’t they draw a handsome black man sans accent (Naveen has a Brazilian accent, so he’s thought to be a black Latino)? I mean, we have the equivalent of a black prince in the White House, so what is the big deal?
I remember when Brandy starred in Cinderella on ABC in 1997, with Whitney Houston playing the Celeste Holm/Fairy Godmother role, and Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber were playing the Queen and King, respectively. Imagine my surprise when the Prince turned out to be…a Filipino, Paolo Montalban. No diss on Paolo, but…
Can’t a black couple walk hand in hand into the sunset and the future? Does it always have to be a white guy, or a white-looking guy? I don’t mind a sista or a brotha getting their swerve on with others of the human race, but this is getting to be a habit–and an excuse–among filmmakers. They must have no idea how to depict black people in love with each other, and damn everyone else–including white people. This, I think, is the problem. So Disney shows we can expect no different from them. Walt Disney himself was such a reactionary that he was pretty happy with depicting and reissuing films with blacks wearing tattered clothes and singing zippy-dee-doo-dah down a Southern dirt road during the civil rights era, and having Mowgli from The Jungle Book complain that different species should stay separate from each other.
Naturally, the denizens at Bossip weren’t too pleased about this development (they gave Disney a big F-U) and the story got traction at Jack & Jill Politics and other oases in Blackblogistan. Said Sepia:
But let’s say Disney is gonna try to “pass” this character off as black, why not avoid all the drama and make the prince an identifiably black man? What? So brothas who look like brothas can’t be princes?
And I don’t think they were trying to make them look like PBO and FLOTUS because even though PBO is light, you know he’s black. Hell, he looks like Michael Evans from Good Times!
Disney gets the gas face for this mess.
Yes, I’m fully aware that people of the African Diaspora vary in complexion and hair texture. However, I think there’s something else at play here… this is supposedly Disney’s first animated feature with a black princess – an obviously black princess, if we’re taking strictly surface representation. I don’t think they were ready to go all the way and make the prince obviously dark as well. Baby steps I guess…
This has long been an issue in Hollywood flicks, and it’s funny that the same rule apparently applies even in cartoons! We can’t pair up 2 dark-skinned people in the same movie, because it might automatically alienate a certain group of the film’s potential audience – read, white people. So, just as we do with live action pictures, in order to guarantee rich box office returns, we’ll cast a black woman/man, with a white man/woman, in a love story.
How often do we get to see love stories on screen featuring 2 obviously black people in the starring roles?
Baby steps…in 2009? The 21st century? Like I ask at times, what year and what century are we living in? Disney may be dead, but his backwards shade is still working through the accountants, PR, and artists running the studio. Nothing has really exploded on Disney…YET, but by the time December rolls around watch people get upset…bet on it.
And if Oprah Winfrey has anything to say about it, she had better rev up for damage control because girlfriend is in this potential bomb, too!