A Better Princess Movie

This weekend I took my 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old niece to see Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. I’ll have to admit, we were pleasantly entertained.  As a feminist, I have always had issues with Disney’s  princess movies and their portrayal of women as helpless, beauty-obsessed, females whose ultimate dream is to find a prince charming to rescue them from their life of boredom and meaninglessness. But in Disney’s latest full-length princess movie, they finally gets some things right by giving us an atypical princess and a story line that teaches our young girls (and boys) that it takes more than waiting around for Prince Charming and wishing upon a star to make your dreams come true.

From the movie trailer for The Princess and the Frog you see that Disney has finally recognized the diversity of their audience and given us a Black princess. Tiana isn’t really a princess, but rather a working-class waitress with two jobs and a dream to one day own her own restaurant. Contrast her with Snow White, Disney’s first animated princess who debuted some 72 years ago, and many people would agree that Tiana is the atypical princess by Disney standards.  Unlike Snow White, whose dream that “someday (her) prince will come” created the standard for many subsequent Disney princesses; Tiana is a strong, intelligent, and independent, heroine.  She takes charge of her own destiny, wishes upon a star not for a man, but for entrepreneurial success, and doesn’t have time for the handsome, yet lazy and self-absorbed prince.

Through hand-drawn animation that is visually stunning and a sound track that brings together jazz, zydeco, and gospel music, the culture of Jazz-era New Orleans and Cajun-country Louisiana are laced throughout this movie. Against this backdrop, Disney delivers a princess movie that seems to be more culturally aware than any of their previous features.  Tiana is much more relatable for a broader audience of little girls and the lesson that the movie sends treats women in a more respectful way than ever before.  Although, this movie isn’t perfect, and there are some missteps (I’m still undecided on whether or not I was offended by the representation of the Cajun firefly, Ray), I’m not going to nitpick at this movie; but rather, applaud Disney for finally bringing some real diversity and gender equity to their movies.

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