Monday, November 22, 2010

The New Princess on the Block


In a failed attempt to relive a little of my childhood I decided to watch the latest Disney princess movie The Princess and the Frog. I know that this film in particular wasn’t exactly apart of my childhood but I couldn’t resist, I love princess stories. The Princess and the Frog is a spin on a fairy tale that most people are familiar with in which the Princess kisses the frog and he becomes a prince, they then fall in love and as in most fairy tales they then both live happily ever after.

Disney sets the setting of the film in New Orleans and the "Princess" is a working class girl named Tiana. All she wants is to own her own restaurant, Tiana's Place, and she is willing to work as much as she needs to in order to make it happen (whether that be one job two or three). In comparison to other Disney princess films, like Cinderella and Snow White, Tina can be read as the princess for the modern girl, she is not the traditional damsel in distress like the other Disney Princesses and believes in a hard work ethic not capitalizing on looks or luck. So is Tina a positive Disney Princess and a role model? Not quite, at the end of the day she still needs Prince Naveen to save her, to make her human again. When presented with the opportunity to become human again and keeping the Prince a frog she chooses to live the life of a frog so long as they can have each other. Tiana is still portrayed as the "damsel in distress" just a little more independent and skill full.

Here Disney still employs a lot of the same stereotypes as see in other films or other forms of media. They portray her as being a stereotypical woman. Her dream is to be a cook, a feminized profession, and her special dish is gumbo. The thing that attracted Prince Naveen to her were her looks, Tiana is anything but homely. In fact the whole reason that she turns into a frog is because the prince needs to kiss a "princess" and he promised her money in exchange for a kiss simply because she looked the part. On another note, her mother still pushes her to fall in love which she says is "what is important." Throughout the film, via several characters, this idea that material wealth and working toward a goal are good but they won't make you happy, love will is a central part of the film. This romanticized idea of love is what "all girls should want."

Princess Tiana is the first African American Disney Princess and as such she is significant. But if Disney is so concerned with representation and being inclusive to all cultures then where is the Latina princess? I would be a hypocrite to criticize Disney, as I am a big fan, and I hate to point out the obvious but Disney is teaching children a very particular way of being a person and what opportunities are given to people. Watching a children's movie from an adult perspective it is obvious to me that the messages in films like these are not as positive as they seemed when I was a child.


  1. I have to say that I agree with your post as I'm an avid Disney fan as well. However I recently saw this film in particular because I was uneasy about how Disney was going to finally make another ethnic princess. Where is the Latina princess? It is taking too long to get it together and get it right with princesses.
    Not to bash Disney but they did a Mulan set in China and Pocahontas. Disney refers to Pocahontas and Mulan as princesses however did not market them as much as the others because they were "the modern girls" not being interdependent on their prince to be fulfilled. Yet these are princesses that receive the least acknowledgement.
    Mulan cross dressed in the film as a man to become a warrior to protect her father and bring honor to her family. She did not look for love she was looking to do everything a man could.
    Pocahontas wanted to be a free spirit and not follow in what was chosen for her. Instead she wanted to decide her own path and was strong enough to be ok had she ended up without John Smith. She did not romanticize love.
    By not embracing independent princesses like Mulan and Pocahontas as much as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty it is telling young girls that having a prince rescue or take care of you is better than having independence. Disney frustrates me with their mix messages to kids. Then we grow up and watch it again and are upset about what we see and understand what they did then, now.

  2. This is so funny because my friend and I were just talking about Disney and its messages the other week. I also hate to bash on Disney as well because I am a huge fan. After watching The Little Mermaid, we were debating on the ages of the princesses and found out that Ariel was only 16 when she got married, and this is a recurring theme in most, if not all Disney princesses. The age range for the Disney princesses are from about 14-21, which is very young. Why would Disney send a message for girls to marry young?
    This also goes to show that love and marriage is important, or is what "all girls should want," that the purpose of girls is to get marry, bear children, and take care of the family. In this case, women would depend on their husbands for such. Why not teach young girls to become strong and independent women? As Nayna mentioned, Mulan and Pocahontas do show these characteristics but they are not as popular as the other princesses.

  3. I found your blogpost quite interesting. I'm not sure if this is really relevant but I found it very interesting that this movie was released after Obama won the presidency, Before that the "darkest" princess was Pocahontas but the movie in itself is very interesting. The Princess and the Frog is absolutely different than any other disney princess. As you said, it doesn't follow the regular pattern that the other princesses follow, Tiana has to work hard to earn money, she's not making a real sacrifice for any "greater good"...and yet she still needs her sweet Prince to rescue her in a way in order to transform her back into a human. As much as I love Disney movies, I'll admit that they very much stress the social norms, the woman has to be ultimately "Saved" by the man