Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Princess Tiana...

(This article was copied from "The Mommy Files"
If you have a little girl, you probably know about the newest Disney princess: Tiana. Even though she's starring in a film, The Princess and the Frog, that doesn't arrive in theaters until December, everyone is talking about her. Why? For the first time ever the one wearing the tiara is black.

Since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, all of Disney's princesses have predominantly been white. Pocahontas featured a Native American princess, and Jasmine in Aladdin had a Middle Eastern appearance.

"Finally, here is something that all little girls, especially young black girls, can embrace, and that is huge," Cori Murray, an entertainment director at Essence magazine, recently told CNN. "This sends a message that no matter what you look like you can be beautiful, that you can be a princess, that you can be first lady."

Set in 1920s New Orleans against a background of jazz and voodoo, the movie is an adaptation of the classic tale The Frog Prince. Tiana is a waitress and budding chef who dreams of owning a restaurant and is persuaded to kiss a frog who is really a prince. The spell backfires and Tiana also becomes a frog and together they go on an adventure to find a cure.

Tony award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose will give voice to Princess Tiana. Talk show host and business mogul Oprah Winfrey and Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard also voice characters in the movie.

While many believe Princess Tiana sends a positive message, Internet chat rooms and blogs are abuzz with complaints. Some think her skin is too light and her name too ethnic while others are disturbed by the New Orleans location.

"Disney should be ashamed," William Blackburn, a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, told London's Daily Telegraph. "Despite all its resources and experience, it has failed to create a black princess to rival its predecessors. This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community. And then they throw in the voodoo theme and an alligator sidekick. When you put New Orleans, alligators and voodoo together, there's no beauty there."

The most controversial aspect of the movie is the skin tone of Princess Tiana's lover. Although he is called Prince Naveen and voiced by a Brazilian actor, he looks white. Some bloggers have said that Tiana and Naveen make a great interracial couple, while some say Disney ducked the opportunity to create a fairytale black couple. This definitely would have been timely, considering that the current president and first lady are black. Many are also saying that Disney is reenforcing the age-old message that a hero has to be a white man.

A reader writes on Essence.com on April 22, 2009: I LOVE that Disney is finally putting a black princess on the big screen. This is awesome. However, I disagree that the prince being bi-racial or whatever is not of importance. What is the problem with a strong black male image? Why does the media not believe that a black male can hold down a leading role, even in a cartoon? Hello, anyone ever heard of Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Sidney Poitier? What's the deal?

The film has been dogged by racial controversy since Disney first announced their plans for the first black princess. Its heroine was originally to be a chambermaid called Maddy working for a spoiled white debutante. The storyline sparked a backlash from critics who claimed it reinforced prejudice and demeaned black people.

Disney says they're working hard to create a film that will please the African American community. "Our first goal is to make a great motion picture," says John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, told the Washington Post. "But we have also worked very closely with a lot of leaders in the African American community, all across the nation, to make sure we're doing something African American families will be proud of. It's very important for us to do it right. We've been very careful and cognizant about what we're doing."
Does anyone else find this article irritating? It irks me that no matter what is done it always turns into an issue of color. Anybody have any comments??

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