Monday, June 1, 2009
How About We See The Movie First?
When we took the kids to see "Up" this weekend, we got a look at the trailer for Disney's upcoming animated film, "The Princess and the Frog." This is a big deal, because the movie features Disney's first African-American princess, Tiana. Having grown up in the Obama era, my children have no idea how significant this is. But I couldn't help sneaking glances at my 4-year-old daughter C. to gauge her reaction. She didn't say anything about the princess being "brown" — her term for herself — but she was clearly stoked. C. is all about the princesses.
Old Disney movies, products of their time, have had some howlingly racist moments in them. But the company isn't stupid, and it wants Tiana & Co. to make lots and lots of money. Think of the dollars to be made in merchandising alone. Disney needs black parents and their daughters to like "The Princess and the Frog."
That's why I'm a little annoyed that people are already branding the movie racially insensitive (See the New York Times story here.) Critics say it's wrong to set the fairy tale in New Orleans because of the Katrina tragedy and — Jesus Christ — that the prince is too light-skinned. Seriously.
True, the prince isn't easily racially identifiable, as he has straight hair and tan skin. But that makes sense, given that New Orleans has long been a multicultural city. And so what if he's not black? I hate to invoke Barack Obama (again), but given that our president has a white mom and an African dad, isn't a bit silly to demand that the prince look a certain way? To be perfectly honest, it's more important that Tiana herself has clearly African-American features and dark brown skin. The female beauty standard in this country still skews Caucasian, so when the person wearing the tiara doesn't, it matters. The powers at Disney (or at least their consultants) seem to understand this.
More to the point, I wish people would wait to see a movie before condemning it or accusing it of all kinds of offenses. Maybe the movie will make me cringe in horror when I see it, or maybe it'll just suck. Until then, I'm going to assume that Disney wants Tiana to take up residence in my home alongside High School Musical and Phineas and Ferb.