Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 08, 2009

Will The Princess and the Frog be a hop in the right direction?

Floating around the internet and a theater near you is the trailer for the upcoming Disney holiday film,The Princess and the Frog,which is stirring up talk for a variety pack of reasons.

The main attraction of this film is that it has an African American princess(named Tiana who will be voiced by Anika Noni Rose)as the lead,a first for a Disney animated feature. Ethic diversity for leading ladies and men in Disney films has been slowly but surely coming in the last several years,so more than the usual expectations for success are being piled on here.

The plot has been given several new twists,such as moving the locale to New Orleans and a magical backfire that levels the playing field between Princess Tiana and her amphibian friend:

It's nice to see Disney embrace the 2D style of artwork that many of their best animated films are known for,and while the whole "oh,she becomes a frog,too" deal is pretty predictable(to an adult,anyway),this does look like a well made movie. However,I am a tad concerned about possible stereotyping,particularly since the Big Bad of the story is a "witch doctor".

To be fair,there is a voodoo priestess character(named Mama Odie who is vocalized by Jenifer Lewis)represented in the story as the Fairy Godmother type,so perhaps that is not as bad as I fear. I wouldn't want political correctness to strangle the creativity of any film,but this is a extremely fine line we're walking here and for good reason. Too often,in both the past and present,Hollywood has gleefully waded in the shallow end of the diversity pool,bordering at times between exploitation and patronization of cultural differences.

It's a shame that we even have to think about stuff like this,especially for a film that wants to break out of the usual box for children's fantasy stories. Wouldn't be nice to just go"Oh,cool,a new Disney cartoon!" and not worry about offending anyone's sensibilities,real or imagined.

Hopefully,this movie will lead the way towards more mainstreaming of different cultural influences in both kid and adult orientated fare. Yes,I know that plenty of strides have been made already,but there's still a way to go here,folks. Just the fact that a new Disney Princess is black is such a huge deal proves that.

As shown in the HBO animated series,Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, showcasing a familiar fable thru the eyes of another culture gives it a whole new nuance and flair that keeps the storytelling tradition alive. With any luck,The Princess and the Frog will be more along those lines. The best we can hope for is that the film focuses on that which brings us together rather than what sets us apart to audiences of all ages:

1 comment:

Ladytink_534 said...

I am looking forward to this. I hope that Disney is getting back on the right track but I seriously doubt this will be an animated film instead of a cartoon unfortunately. Please, please, please prove me wrong Disney company!