EntertainmentSnob, PopCulturalist, PostRacialist

More Disney Princess Dissertation (CBS News)

CBS News took a stab at the whole Disney’s first African-American princess story with their new New Orleans-based “The Princess and the Frog” film. Naturally they discussed both the excitement and Disney’s less than stellar track record when it comes to portraying various ethnicities in animation. (*Cough* Song of the South! *Cough*) They also talk about the controversy surrounding the princess’ love interest being a Brazilian prince of some sort. Naturally some have argued “what the hell” to there being no black prince. I can see both sides of the argument on this one. On one hand, don’t really care that the prince is Brazilian and not visibly black Brazilian. (Yay for the swirl!) On the other hand, Brazilian is pretty fucking random. (The swirl’s in here why?)

More story and video after the jump.

I wish so badly I could have been a fly on the wall of that meeting where they decided to make the prince non-black just so I could know what machinations they had to go through to come up with “Brazilian.” Was there a list of approved ethnicities? Why couldn’t he be just some form of local Creole? Is Creole too hard to explain to people outside of the bayou? Native American — been there, done that? (Kinda.) French? Was that too obvious? Spanish? Again, too obvious? How does one connect Brazil to NOLA other than they both have really wild parties? (Although I think Carnivale beats Mardi Gras.) I mean, they speak Portuguese there. NOLA was a former French-Spanish port. I’m not getting the connection.

Neither are a lot of people.

For many — the question is pointed — if we can have an African American president, why not an African American prince? Inquiring minds (and moms) want to know.

Is it for economic reasons — that is, the same reason they pair Will Smith so often with a Latina counterpart in his films — because black couples don’t “sell” in Hollywood? Is it because a black prince is just not plausible? Is it because it’s high time that we see an interracial couple in a cartoon? Why now is the kiddie conglomerate conveniently color blind? This was a conscious decision on the part of Disney. Why? (AOL Blackvoices)

Of course, some reports say it’s just the actor who voices the prince who is Brazilian and that the doodled dude is actually from a made up fantasy place that I’m just going to call “Post-Racial Island,” the fairy tale land where none of this shit matters anymore. You know? That place where none of us happen to live.

But I’m suuuuuuure the movie will explain that fantasy island and all our other unanswered questions when it’s released. Positive.

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40 thoughts on “More Disney Princess Dissertation (CBS News)

  1. politicallyincorrect says:

    The stuff black people complain about, why all the pressure on a cartoon character? WIll Smith an actual person doesn’t get any pressure to have a black love interest

  2. This is pretty much OT, but actually there is some interesting connection between NOLA and Brazil. The Voodoo tradition descends from the same African religion, from Nigeria & Benin, as the NE Brazilian Candomblé (also the Cuban santería). That would imply that the Africans "imported" into both places were from the same culture. In NE Brazil the tradition is much closer to its origins. Many black people there still speak Yoruba, and practice Candomblé or a hybrid of Candomblé and Catholicism. I used to sing in a samba band with a guy who said his uncle was the "world high priest of candomblé", and that people would sometimes come over to Brazil from Benin and Nigeria to re-learn their ancestral traditions, that were lost in the motherland hundreds of years ago when Islam came in.I think it’s kind of fascinating…. But it’s totally OT anyway, because that link is between BLACK Brazilians and NOLA, and this prince doesn’t look Yoruba…..

  3. Tamara says:

    How cute is little Reese and how cute is her hair?!?!? My goddaughter calls her afro-puff her "tough-n-puff". Anyway, I see both sides of the argument. Dude from Harvard in the piece nailed it on the head. The cues are so subtle that kids won’t get it right away, but the images remain later on in life.

  4. Jaddadalos says:

    @ politicallyincorrect (and all)Yea. I wish we lived in that land where images didn’t matter. Instead of complaining about complaining (and it’s not just you. So many people have been like, "When will you people be satisfied?!!"), why can’t we as a society explore why some in our population are so sensitive to their portrayal? Why do we have people who spend their time dissecting every representation of their people, dress, food, thoughts, language, etc.? Why is this sooooo important? Do they just have nothing else to do? Or is it something else? Is there a history? Should we look at this history and see if the effects are still with us? Hmm…I know this is a "duh" moment, but I personally feel like everytime my observations and "complaining" are poo pooed (Im a teacher. I complain a lot.), I am being told to "shut up and get over it", regardless of the fact that I can’t escape the effects that those with power refuse to or conveniently do not see. It’s just a daily reality and it’s a wonder that I am JUST discovering the joys of therapy and have not cut a good portion of the population.@ Regina (and all)I’ll follow your OTness:I mean, I guess, but I would say this more about Haiti – which is much more of a direct connection within the African Diaspora to New Orleans (historically and culturally). But then if Disney were trying to do all that "connecting", perhaps we would, at least "pop culturally", have to act like Haiti exists… and maybe think about how Haiti is historically and politically connected to the United States…Naw. lemme stop. Getting more off topic and upset.My point is if we’re talking about where people were taken during the Transatlantic trade and connections therein, then there are all types of connections we could make (fascinating ones that I personally would like to see celebrated instead of used as a divide and conquer tactic). But to even fantasize anything REMOTELY in this vein as the rationale for the Disney Co.’s choice of prince – them being scholars of the Diaspora and all – is hilarity. That would be a lot of credit to the "I be done seen ’bout ev’ry thang" clan. Yup. It’s marketing.It’s been said either here or on another site about how the biggest disappointment is not the interracial love (which could encourage a trend… *wink wink*, sistas), but the fact that Tiana spends a heck of a lot (majority?) of time as a frog…When will we ever be satisfied?

  5. malted_tea says:

    Err, there are dark-skinned people on Brazil. This particular prince is not dark-skinned of course but it doesn’t mean that just because he’s light-skinned that he is not black. Who says? And why can’t their be an interracial relationship if he is, in fact, not of African heritage? And true: why the pressure on a cartoon movie? Sigh. Anyway, a relevant conversation on black Latinos, Asian Latinos and what not is over at a recent Racialicious post: http://www.racialicious.com/2009/06/09/black-latinos-stand-up/

  6. Danielle Belton says:

    @ malted_teaAh. I forgot to update the front when I fixed this in the story as I knew someone would point this fact out. It should read (and now does read up front):

    On one hand, don’t really care that the prince is Brazilian and not visibly black Brazilian. (Yay for the swirl!) On the other hand, Brazilian is pretty fucking random. (The swirl’s in here why?)

  7. k8dee says:

    What I find problematic is this refusal to acknowledge the spectrums peoples of the African diaspora come in. As a native New Orleanian, I have many relatives and friends who consider themselves black with fair skin, soft hair, and light-colored eyes. The Brazilian accent may be random, but his skin color is not. He is STILL black!I think the "problem" comes in when you add intraracial gender relations. It is accepted that dark-skinned black men can and will go lighter in their choice of female partners, not so much when the situation is reversed. I think a lot of people are having trouble accepting that fair-skinned black man is choosing a darker-skinned black woman. Dark-skinned black women are rarely considered desirable for a myriad of historical reasons. I think it is touching that MSM is acknowledging the desirability of darker-skinned women, and that,hey, a light-skinned guy who is not Al B. Sure wants her for a partner.I also believe these gender/race arguments are veiling other problems with the movie, am I the only one who is apprehensive about the snaggle-toothed firefly?

  8. Monie says:

    I think the reason Disney chose not to have a Black prince is because they didn’t want the movie to be a "Black film". I’m pretty sure this was about money. They figured that White parents might not be inclined to take their daughters to see the film with two Black romantic leads. This is what Hollywood does in general, which is why we see Will and Denzel with Latinas so often.

  9. sarah says:

    Well the prince is brown and that’s good enough for me. Even with Disney’s history I am still a Disney princess fan and I can’t wait for the movie to come out because I am big kid. All of my little god daughters will be getting Princess Tianna dolls for Christmas too. So count me in. Nobody remembers the prince from these movies anyway…it’s all about the princess.

  10. Danielle Belton says:

    @ Jaddadalos, et alThe reason why people make a big deal out of this is because of the paucity of images, positive images, of blacks in the media. If full length cartoons starring blacks were more common place people wouldn’t put so much pressure on the one. But it’s the FIRST. ONE. EVA! Hence all the hemming, hawing, hen-pecking and criticism. Until there is a larger variety and diversity of images this is always going to be an issue whether it is a TV show, a book, a newspaper article or a children’s cartoon. As long as it’s rare to see a reflection of ourselves in the mass media there is going to be a lot of navel gazing and cross-examination.

  11. Danielle Belton says:

    @ k8deeWell, he could be black. There are black and white Brazilians. There are brown Brazilians who don’t consider themselves to be black. It’s a touch more complex racially over there than it is here. I was more so mocking Disney’s randomness than anything else, wondering why they didn’t shoot for an ethnicity that is related to New Orleans, like Creole, which does come in every shade from white to black and you can be damn-near-white and still consider yourself black and be Creole. So that wasn’t my critique. It was more, where in the hell did they pull that from, considering people that have French or Spanish roots would have been more apropos to the region.

  12. Jaddadalos says:

    @ DanielleWe’re agreeing, right?@ k8deeBrazilian IS random. I don’t know if they are intending for him to be Black at all. Spectrum noted. Southern Louisiana cultural history noted (I’m part of the Los Angeles migration of S. Louisianans – Parents from outside Baton Rouge). It’s just too "huh?" for me. Maybe they’ll change/be more specific about the story of his origin before the movie premieres. Yea… **thinking**… it’s not the physicality of dude that gets me. It’s the character’s story (as we’ve heard it so far).You’re also giving the main stream a lot of credit there… We definitely gather what we want as individuals from other folks’ "public expressions" (avoiding the word "artistic" for some reason), but I personally would not go into saying that this is a declaration of acceptance of Blackness and the Black aesthetic. We got a ways to go on that front.

  13. politicallyincorrect says:

    I am not disregarding the complaints, its just that Hollywood does not and will not put 2 black leadss in the multi million dollar, years to make film. Instead of just complaining about this movie y’all should have been staying home foll all movies. How many of y’all went to see any post Independence Day Will Smith movie or some movie with no black folks. Hollywood don’t respect black folks they do it over and over again, just like the CW but all we do is complain and continue to give our $12. Black folks act like domestic violence victims, just keep coming back and expecting better

  14. don't get it says:

    I don’t really care. My goddaughter will dress up as a princess and call herself Tiana and my godson will call himself the prince. They both seem like positive images so what’s the problem?

  15. NAGROM says:

    The Prince isn’t black, darnnit! LOL, IR dating exists people, it exists! It is funny how finally a prominent black Princess has come along in a Disney film, a cartoon film, and some black people have a problem with her dating a Brazilian prince. I wonder why with most of Will Smith’s big hollywood movies he always has a non-black love interest woman! I bet she wasn’t complaining then. Black women, we hurt ourselves when we deny ourselves the love and desire of other races of men.

  16. Sandra says:

    This movie is about the princess. I couldn’t care less what color the prince is. I don’t hear black men objecting in black movies where the black male lead is paired with a light-skinned black or latina actress or white actress. So I’m not going to jump through hoops to fight for someone who can’t be bothered to fight for me. Yay, first black princess! May we have many more.

  17. dukedraven says:

    It’s not surprising that most of these comments are favorable, considering that most people here are black women and they’re getting good representation in the movie, while black males are getting the shaft. Let’s be honest, that Brazilian prince is a black woman’s wet dream if they could have one. He looks like a "light-skinned brother with good hair." This movie will make tons of money. Hee, hee.

  18. NAGROM says:

    So dukedraven, a lily white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes is a black man’s dream. The point is, where were the complaints when actors like Denzel Washington and Will Smith had non-black love interests. It is about time black women got good representation in the entertainment industry. What, you expect us to fight good representation? LOL. You must be silly.

  19. NAGROM says:

    Also dukedraven you are really starting to show your obvious disdain for black women getting equal represntation in IR dating. It’s ok baby, your brothers are stilling dating out of their race at about ten hundred times the amount your sisters are, so no worries…yet.

  20. Danielle Belton says:

    @ NAGROMI don’t think people are necessarily against representation. I just don’t think they trust Disney. I think the cartoon looks interesting, but at the same time it could turn out very "Song of the South 2" with the toothless firefly, the fat alligator, the Voodoo Doctor, the fact that some say Tiana is going to spend a good bulk of the movie as a frog. The IR angle is just another distracting thing for people to hem and haw over. I mean, it’s not exactly shocking that some black people would pine to see black love in cartoon princess/prince form. People do that right now with the Obamas.I, of course, was enjoying myself by making fun of the sheer randomness of Disney going with Brazil over Spain or France or Creole or Haitian or something actually related to New Orleans. Doesn’t anyone else find hilarity in the RANDOMNESS? Did they throw a dart at a map? I just wanna know!

  21. politicallyincorrect says:

    Actually dukedraven maybe I would actually be against this racially ambigous prince if black men actually put black women as their love interest in magazines, movies and videos. Support should be recipricated.

  22. NAGROM says:

    Danielle, I understand that. But when you have a group of women that has the low marriage statistics as black women, we need the equal IR representation. I hope that this movie does not go the stereotypical route too. Don’t get me wrong, Im not against a black Prince, it’s just that it amazes me how the outrage comes out when it is promoting IR for black women instead of black men. I mean and it seems like alot of this outrage is coming from black women.

  23. dukedraven says:

    Nope, Danielle, I really don’t see the hilarity in the randomness–sorry. For your sake, sisters, I hope you get some white husbands soon. That’ll free up the blondes for the brothers. Hee, hee.

  24. NAGROM says:

    Dukedraven, as if you need us to get married to white men to get what you wanted anyways- a white woman. Seriously I could care less about black men dating white women because every other crush I’d ever had has been a non-black boy with a black one thrown in ever now and then. I guess Im attracted to the rainbow aswell.

  25. Hypnotic says:

    I’m pretty tired of this subject because everyone is talking about it. But here’s my two cents. I agree with Danielle Brazilian is a random nationality for the prince character. Straight random, sorry. I don’t care what races are prevalent in Brazil or the interconnectedness of music and religion developed from the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. People are definitely grasping for straws as a counter argument. But why is there even an argument, maybe like someone else said Disney has a history of revisionism and racism and sexism so why would I believe anything they are doing is for our benefit. As someone who grew up with all types of images of white princesses it’s great to see a Black princess many young girls can relate to, however I think young black boys also need positive images as well. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for Disney to lead the way that begins at home. However I think people have a right to discuss something that can be interpreted as back handed. Why has it taken over 15 years since the first modern Disney princess movies to feature a black princess? Also can I just say I am sick of black women rallying behind this IR mantra. No one cares who you are dating, seriously you are not important. Please go ahead and be happy and stop championing your dating choices. Some people act like they are prophets warning black women of a dating/marriage armageddon. Seriously it’s not that deep. I was of another race I would be insulted if someone kept advocating to date outside the black race like it’s a new hobby to try. Date who you want.

  26. dukedraven says:

    Hypnotic, thank you so much. I’m sick and tired of hearing it too. For those black women advocating IR dating: Get a room!

  27. dukedraven says:

    That’s only hearsay, politically incorrect. You have no proof. I demand a retraction immediately or I’ll sue for libel. Crazy is as crazy does. Hee, hee.

  28. k8dee says:

    @ DanielleMy comment about color and Brazil was not so much a lack of awareness of the color issues there, it was more focused on the random nature of Brazil itself, particularly given the heavy French, Spanish, African and Native American influences upon New Orleans culture. Those would be great culture veins the plot and characters could sensibly tap into for reasons jaddadalos already mentioned.@jaddadalosTrust me, I am not giving MSM too much credit. But it is sometimes good to be noticed and go enjoy the Disney movie and the world it represents. I will, of course, gird my niece with the necessary information needed to be a black woman in this society. But, it is nice that she will get a princess that looks like her. Plus, my sister says I cannot teach her about the major critiques I have with Disney and the culture it promotes until a more suitable age. So, I will put my blinders on as best I can and spend a lovely afternoon with my beautiful niece.

  29. I really wish the prince was darker-skinned, but I can’t really complain because it is nice to have a princess of color for my 2 year old and 4 year old to look up to. For my daughters, at this point, it isn’t really about the prince but being the princess. It would be nice to have something to balance out Cinderella, Belle and Sleeping Beauty (although my little ones will on ocassion beg to watch some ass-kicking Mulan or Pochontas). Also, our president is still black although he isn’t the darkest of the blacks. All I know is that I will be at the movies opening damn weekend complete with the the Burger King/McDonald’s happy meal filled with all the Disney commercialism. Disney’s blatant commercialism bothers me more now than their obvious race issues.Maybe there is some secret counter-culturalism on Disney’s agenda, like it is okay to be in an interracial relationship. Or, take a look at the first High School Musical? It was clearly suggesting that is okay to break out of gender stereotypes. Even Disney’s later princess cartoons, like Beauty & the Beast and Aladdin, featured women who did not want to be stuck in their society-assigned gender role.

  30. Lady M says:

    For those black men leaning towards foolishness: Get a room. Hee, hee. @dukedraven… I couldn’t resist. I had to mock your tendency to channel The Gloved One’s signature falsetto.

  31. Alex says:

    Naveen…sounds Middle Eastern? I agree with Danielle that it seems conspicuous to make him non-Black…but still "ethnic". I think Disney was afraid that if they had an all-black romance, they would lose white audiences due to disinterest, but that they were also afraid of pairing a black girl with a caucasian royal. So Disney went with a proven Hollywood formula: an interracial romance that didn’t involve white people. My sense is that conservative white audiences are fine with IR romance…as long as their own race isn’t in the mix.Anyway whatever Naveen is, Tiana is out of his league. He looks like a dark-skinned Fabio. Ew!Another thing I don’t understand…if Tiana’s a waitress, how is she a princess? Presumably from marrying a prince, like Belle, but Tiana looks like she is wearing princess gear before she meets the frog prince. Does anyone know more details of the plot?

  32. @Hypnotic:"Why has it taken over 15 years since the first modern Disney princess movies to feature a black princess? "Because we’re not in the room making decisions about what images to create. Because wealthy Black Americans are not in the room putting their money where their mouth is by creating and promoting positive images that truly represent us. Because average Black folk keep going to movies that are not about US or our culture and rejoicing when Hollywood deigns to recognize us with a Magical Negro or supporting role – See! We exist!

  33. Creole like Tiana. says:

    Danielle (French name, are you of Black French descent? I am). Here are some connections involving South Louisiana/New Orleans and Brazil: Both were colonized/settled by Latin Europeans (Latin Europeans= French, Spanish, & Portugese). Both had millions of Blacks introduced into these settlements/colonies. Both had heavy mixing between White & Black, resulting in large mixed-race populations coming to be in both. Both places are majority/heavily Catholic. Both places are widely known as amalgams of Black/Latin European culture, languages, customs, and religion. How’s that for you? Ca te plait? As for the whining about the Prince not being Black. Sheer hipocracy. Never a peep when Black male actors animated and not are paired up with White, Latina, and other non-Black actresses. The Black community supports and actually seems to think that garbage is normal/acceptable. To those whining, I simply say get over it! C’est la vie haha!. I as a Black woman am happy about this movie, and even happier that my nieces, girl cousins, and little sisters FINALLY have a Disney princess who looks like/represents THEM!

  34. Josh says:

    It may be that the Prince was a lazy ass and they didn’t want to risk the PC police coming for them if they portrayed a black man as lazy, trying to marry a white girl (Charlotte) only for her money. It was easier to keep him of color and not offensive to black people by making his ethnicity a bit of a question mark. If he’d been black and all stayed the same character, this very same post would be a bitch rant about the awful stereotypes the white mainstream media have in their minds when it comes to anyone who’s not white – this is a double edged sword. Disney is damned either way.

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