Movie Review: The Princess & The Frog

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According to TV Guide, Disney’s “The Princess & the Frog” topped the box office last weekend earning 25 million dollars – the highest grossing start ever for an animated movie. This is not surprising when you consider how long we’ve had to wait for an African-American Disney Princess.

I too contributed to the movie’s success when I went to see it debut with my 5-year-old niece. Even though I was excited about the historical moment, I couldn’t help but have pre-reservations on what I soon witnessed; reservations stemming from the fact that Disney made a princess of every ethnic background except for an African or African-American throughout the series.

As a child, I always wondered where the princess was that looked like me. I even wondered where the people were in the Lion King. I knew that Africa consisted of humans and heard their voices singing, but never saw anyone throughout the entire movie. This exemplifies the historical racism, insensitivity and total disregard of an entire ethnic group of people from Disney.

Having this knowledge caused me to approach this movie with a critical eye, and now that my niece is at the “Disney princess” age, I want her to be able to witness one that she can admire and relate to, but at a standard identical to previous princesses.

Disney producers were receiving complaints about their lack of sensitivity in this matter, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this production was forced, and if so, how were they going to portray this princess, for the sake of African-American girls everywhere?

The movie was set in New Orleans, Louisiana, seemingly chosen for its rich culture, but also known for its negative stereotypical portrayals of African-Americans. The princess was a girl named Tiana who aspired to own her own restaurant. Tiana was poor, but very hard working, and had a Caucasian best friend who came from a very wealthy background. An arrogant prince of African decent comes to town (due to being kicked out of his home for having too much “fun”) to find a princess with money, and is automatically set up with the Caucasian friend, due to her wealthy father being the “King of the Mardi-Gras.”

A Louisiana voodoo witch doctor (who was surrounded with African drums, music, masks and spirits) turns the prince into a frog, and tells him that the only way he’ll turn back to being a human again is to kiss a princess. The frog finds his way to Tiana’s room assuming that she is a princess seeing that she is wearing a gown (that was borrowed for an event).

Tiana talks to him and is convinced to kiss him, but she instead turns into a frog which reveals to the prince that she is not a princess. He doesn’t want her when she tells him that she is a poor waitress, and they are both forced to spend time with one another in a journey to attempt to turn human again. They befriend a toothless firefly and a fat crocodile who are both comical with horrible grammar.

It was comical, but stereotypical personification nonetheless. They all sing and grow fond of one another and make their way to see yet another witch doctor, an overweight “mama” who lives in a boat within a tree in the deep swamps of Louisiana who gives them “wisdom”. Afterwards, the spell is broken when the princess has an encounter with the original witch doctor, and the prince and Tiana then get married as frogs. They turn to humans again, Tiana opens her restaurant, and has a happily ever after ending with her prince.

If I recall correctly, the typical Disney princess story requires a prince to sincerely pursue his princess, arrogance and selfishness aren’t the typical characteristics of a “prince” (negative stereotype of young black men?), and there are no instances where the princess spends the majority of her time as an amphibian.

Although there is a portrayal of hard workers within the movie, it still lacked class, true romance, and portrayed black culture as poor, uneducated, and full of witchcraft. We are a multicultural ethnic group, and it still seems to me that what is presented to the public is stereotypically filtered through white eyes.

My grade for “The Princess and the Frog” lands at C+. 

  • Angela Allen