Friday's paper carried the news: Disney will now (now being 2009, but we're supposed to get all buzzed about it now) unveil its first African American princess. Maddy, living in the "fading glamor" of New Orleans (Hm. So Katrina just "faded" the "glamor?" Not decimated the population and destroyed most of the city? Oh. Okay.) will be swept up into Disney Magic! And, according to reports, the film will feature "love, enchantment and discovery with a soulful singing crocodile, voodoo spells and Cajun charm." This newest princess will detail the tale of The Frog Prince.
I'm ignoring the "soulful" singing crocodile and the freakin voodoo spells, okay? Let's just not ... even... start, all right? However, despite myself, I will give the Mighty Mouse credit for supporting New Orleans financially, by holding their annual shareholder's meeting there, and setting their animation in that city. My curiosity is, which version of this odd Germanic tale will they use?
Fairytales always are a subject of intense interest to me. Gender and sex roles, cultural mores and more are communicated in a way that seem inherently normalized by the idea that this is a story that "everybody" knows. The 'Once Upon A Time' wraps up the parameters of a world, and years from now will tell others about our civilization... thus I'm also very interested in the choice of " slimy, unwanted suitor being forced upon foolish girl by her father"... as a tale intended for girls to identify with and relate to... especially one for their first African American "Disney princess..."
Folk and Fairy tales present morals , values, ethnic prejudices, and all sorts of other "baggage" coming from the source culture. Yes, they're fun, they're interesting, whatever. But we must ask why the tale's being told, what's being said, and who's saying it.
I'm not certain that this fairy tale had marvelous values to begin with ... and wonder what the frog was to have represented in the original (some other European ethnic group, perhaps) ... and then wonder what the new one will say about Black people. It's one thing to simply represent the characters as they are in the original fable, but to change their ethnicity? It's going to say something twisted, and be (mis)interpreted. Of course, that's Disney for you.
I fear there's a Doctoral Dissertation here for somebody ... and I'm glad I'm not that interested in using Disney for a PhD source!
Yeh I just blogged about this over at Highbrid Nation, check it out if you get a chance. Anyway, it really is about time Disney gave little girls a black princess to look up to. Its long overdue. I also think its great that the film will take place in New Orleans. I'll definately have to take my neice to the Frog Princess.
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