Disney’s attempt at FINALLY writing a story about the first black Disney princess went poorly the first time around. The princess character’s story, about a girl named Maddy who was employed as a chambermaid *cough* in 1920s New Orleans, came under so much criticism they had to go back to the drawing board. Apparently,
Disney’s original storyboard is believed to have been torn up after criticism that the lead character was a clichéd subservient role with echoes of slavery, and whose name sounded too much like “Mammy” – a unwelcome reminder of America’s Deep South before the civil rights movement swept away segregation.
According to the Wiki article about The Princess and The Frog, it will be set in New Orleans in the 1920s Jazz Age. All I know about the main character is that she will be part of the grossly saccharine Disney Princess franchise, the “fastest-growing brand for the company’s Consumer Products division.” The cynical side of me believes that the addition of a black princess to the Disney Princess line, which has “generated $3 billion in global retail sales since 1999,” is an attempt to round out a business model that overlooked a major demographic of sales potential.
No doubt there will be some extra attention paid to the race and class issues in this movie, what with the timeliness of choosing New Orleans as a set and the lack of timeliness in choosing an African-American girl as a lead character. Considering the, uh, unfortunate representations of an amalgam of “barbaric” Middle Eastern culture in Aladdin, and that they’re reprising the same story production crew that did Aladdin, Disney has a long row to hoe. Add the recent national conversations about New Orleans and Katrina, poverty and blackness in the United States, long-lived racist stereotypes of black people, and especially considering that this movie takes place during the salad days of Jim Crow, Disney had better tread very, very carefully. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for progressive or feminist representation here, and Disney has a long history of epic failure in this arena.
This week, Disney released an offical teaser for the newest version. The main character is renamed Tiana, she is no longer employed as a white woman’s chambermaid, and as per the official statement released at the same time as the teaser,
Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney’s rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity.
Well, at least Tiana looks pretty cute.
UPDATE: In comments, Little Light points to additional criticism of the movie from Brownfemipower who also links this great take on the movie by lifelong New Orleans residents Bint Alshamsa and daughter VanGoghGirl.
Similar Posts (automatically generated):
- New Orleans police enforce the “no poor folk in NOLA” rule by kactus December 21, 2007
- New Orleans’ Women Being Left Behind by zuzu August 21, 2006
- Faaaabulous. by zuzu June 19, 2006
- Katrina Links by Jill September 16, 2005
- Drinking Liberally on The Daily Show by Jill July 25, 2007