Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Princess and the Frog - First Black Heroine?

Some of you may remember my post a while ago about Disney and their animation. Well, good news is that they're finally swapping their computers for pencils once again in the new Disney film "The Princess and the Frog", which is the first Disney film to be set in America (New Orleans, to be precise, and in the 1920's) and to have a black heroine.

Now, I'm not the sort of person who is fussed about ethnicity. I don't watch films and think "why did they choose this character?", I'm a pretty accepting person to be honest, so when I discovered this was Disney's first black heroine I had to stop and think.

Is it, really?

Well, yes, really, but what about the fuss over Jasmine from Aladdin? Or Pocahontas? Sorry, did those two films just slide by? They weren't exactly white.





The Princess and the Frog...



So there IS a different skin tone, I won't deny that, especially since Jasmine is Arabian and Pocahontas is a Native American (so maybe Princess and the Frog isn't the first film to be set in America, after all?), but how come these two Disney characters didn't get such attention? At least, I don't remember any of it, but I was very young at the time of their release. Still, everytime you hear about "Princess and the Frog" you always hear a repeat of "First Black Disney Princess".

My question is..."is it really such a big deal?"

The world has become a mix of races and although there's always going to be racism, is it necessary to highlight such a feature? Why draw attention to it? What about all the other ethnics in Disney films: French (Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback), Chinese (Mulan), Greek (Hercules), Italian (Pinocchio), Britain (Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone)? Although they're not exactly different colours skin-wise, Disney stories have been spread geographically. I personally wouldn't say Disney is "racist", like someone at work said to me earlier today.

So are people raving about having a Black Heroine because of this whole "black and white equality" thing? Or am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?

And don't get me wrong, I'm not blasting Disney for creating a Black Heroine, like I said earlier I'm not the sort of person to discriminate, I'm not racist. I have no problem with it. I just wonder if it needs to be mentioned so much.

Feel free to comment and give me your views - maybe I'm missing something! I'll try and reply to everyone.


Rose said...

I agree, I can't see why attention needs to be drawn to it, but you know that activists on both sides are going to make a big deal out of it.
Personally, I don't think it's a big deal, it's a fairytale, kids don't look at the colour of peoples skin, it's just the adults that make something of it, and this I find most disheartening.
The whole racial thing wouldn't happen, if the adults didn't keep making an issue out of it.

Serena-Rose said...

this is exactly my point Rose, and thank you for commenting. Children are innocent and don't see the world in a political view. Children are used to seeing different races now and personally don't see how it's going to make a difference, if it was supposed to.

dcdeb said...

A big deal was made of Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan at the time of their releases -- I think perhaps you were just too young to be aware of it. :-)

And while I don't see why Tiana's (the new princess) skin color has to be THE main publicity point for the new movie, there is a group of people to whom this does matter quite a lot -- and so it gets more airplay than maybe it ought to.

Don't let this put you off the new movie, though. I've seen more than 40 minutes of it already and I'm very excited to see the rest -- it has great HAND-DRAWN animation, a very cute, if familiar story, sassy characters, and fabulous music. I really think Disney has a winner in this film!

Mana said...

First black heroine perhaps, but definitely not the first Disney movie to be set in America.

Lilo & Stitch was set in Hawaii - which, unless they've sold it since I last checked a map, is indeed part of the USA ;)

And Lilo, her sister Nani, and a few other characters seemed to be Polynesian - again, not caucasian. So I also don't know what the fuss is about.

Serena-Rose said...

Thanks for commenting guys. As for Mulan, I remember it being on the news but because of the story, not because of the race...(but I was only about 8 or 9 so I might have missed something)
And I understand this may be important to quite a few people - but why? Why must skin colour be important? Is it so this particular ethnicity feel accepted or something?
There are plenty of role models to look up to, and plenty of real ones at that.
Mana - I was pretty sure this wasn't the first film set in America. I was at work flicking through the new monthly booklet of films to come and that's where I got the information from. Odeon got it wrong, I guess!

and Deb - I am actually very excited about this film! Blues, Jazz and gospel music? I'm in!

SoaringSimpson said...

Maybe I'm way out of date, but I'm struggling with the idea of an American princess as they're so fond of telling us they don't have princesses

Being more familiar with the originals than with Disney, I'm not used to fairytale princesses being from anywhere other than a vague magical kingdom over the sea, which I'd better add, was not necessarily populated by white people

Be interesting to see what Disney makes of it