Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Princess and the "Controversy"

The announcement that Disney would be making its first Princess movie with a royal African American lead was of great interest to me, but what I found truly fascinating was the reader discussion it sparked in the Comments area of the Black Voices web site where I learned of it. The writer purposely worded the final paragraph of his announcement, referencing how much browner the princess is than the prince, to stir up controversy. And based on the reactions elicited, he clearly succeeded. Following is my response to what a variety of people had to say about Disney's daring "casting" choices for The Princess and the Frog.

First off, the Disney movie factory is all about the princesses. The prince is secondary at best. They don't sell Prince Charming dolls (or certainly not too many of them), only Cinderella. Just look at the majority of the movie titles. It's Pocahontas, not Poca & John John. The Little Mermaid, not Lil Mermaid and What's His Face. Beast got top billing alongside Beauty, but look at how much time he had to spend in the makeup chair to earn it. I suspect that not even the carpet riding smooth talker who gave Aladdin its title drummed up many action figure sales. It's all about that temptress, Jasmine. The news here is that Disney finally decided to create an African American princess. When the movie does well, perhaps even better than the typical Disney princess flick due to excess black support (or does all of that go to Tyler Perry for some inexplicable reason?), no doubt there will be others and a black prince will be inevitable. Secondly, Disney is actually taking more of a risk featuring a mixed race couple than if they had made the expected move of combining a black princess with a black prince. No one is shocked or upset by a black couple but plenty of people still have a problem with interracial couples, so kudos to Disney. True they've already covered this territory in Pocahontas, but that movie was loosely (no doubt quite loosely) based on a true story so the races of the characters was not a choice by Disney. This time around it obviously was a conscious choice, and a mildly bold one at that. I say "mildly" because the dude (at least to my eyes) is clearly Hispanic rather than Caucasian, and a black-brown mix is less of a "shocking" statement than black-white. Last but not least, not every decision is a STATEMENT. Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (and their respective suitors) are white because the writers chose to make them so. In this case the writer(s) decided to make the princess African American and the prince a former member of Menudo. The characters are what they are and little to nothing is being preached to the audience in a friggin' Disney cartoon. I wasn't offended that the guy who woke up Sleeping Beauty wasn't Asian or Pakistani so why should I (or anyone else) be bothered that the prince in The Princess and the Frog isn't black. That said, when Disney does get around to creating a black prince I hope they consider using me as the model. See my portfolio below.

- Roy

p.s. - A reader pointed out to me that the name of the Prince is Naveen, which is an Indian name, so that puts Indian as lead candidate for his ethnicity over Hispanic, Caucasian, Philipino, etc. Is Disney basically doing a remake of Mississippi Masala? :-)


p.p.s. - The artists who animate Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. movies are pretty impressive, but if you really want to be blown away check this out.


  1. I love you - for a thousand reasons! :-)

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  3. In movies we often see mixed race couples... there haven't been riots in the streets yet. I watch a very interesting yet very disturbing documentary on how movies are casted in Hollywood. The belief is that no one wants to see a black male and female in love - it's just not sellable. That's why you see Will Smith with Latinas and white women or Halle Berry with white and Latino men. Once a minority actor gains a certain prestige they don't put them with black love interests. That may be why movie goers attend Tyler Perry they can see blacks loving on blacks, no matter how "common" the flick. I have unashamedly attended Tyler Perry movies in all white theaters where there was not a seat to be found, and I was not just the only black, but the only minority in the room! They could have made Disney's first black Prince AND Princess. Brothas need to shine too!