Disney does it again

16 11 2009

Thank you, Disney, for releasing a new Princess film!

Not that it’s your regular, ‘conventional’ princess story. Oh no. For one thing, although it is of course a love story, the film isn’t really about damsels in distress or finding true love or working with ‘negative’ aspects like step-mothers or other such evil women folk who come to stand in their way. Why do women always have to be the bad guys, anyway?

Think about it: thus far, excluding the new Disney Princess film THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, we’ve had Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan… Now that I think about it, perhaps I was a bit prejudice when I said that most of these films have women as the baddies. In Snow White, we have the evil and jealous queen; in Cinderella, it’s her step-mother who makes her into a house-scrubbing misery; Aurora’s fate is woven by the spindle web of the dark fairy Maleficent; and the sea-witch Ursula seeks to gain King Trident’s power as ruler of the sea, her reason for ‘helping’ Ariel to go ashore. That’s four films where women are the antagonists. Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan, on the other hand, are challenged by men… Still, women have a way of being more sinister – and, let’s be honest, convincing – Disney villains. Look at Cruella de Vil (devil) in 101 DALMATIONS. If that doesn’t shriek insanity, then I don’t know what does…

So now that I have made my own point of female bad guys fall flat, I’ll just return to the princess and the frog. First off, Tiana is not a princess. She’s a young waitress and aspiring chef who dreams of opening her own restaurant someday. Now I’m not quite sure how Tiana, Disney’s first Afro-American Princess, ends up in a ball gown (it might have something to do with her best friend, Charlotte, who is a spoilt little debutante, and a ball and things of the like), but when she kisses the transformed frog prince (transformed from prince to frog, of course), she herself turns into a frog! This makes the film more ‘challenging’, as the heroine must journey along with the spoilt, arrogant prince Naveen in search of the quirky Mama Odie, a real Southern bayou voodoo priestess – a fairy godmother with a twist, if you will.

This is Disney’s first venture in using jazz music, acting more ‘freely’ with the plot of the original Grimm fairytale/ story of “The Frog Prince” – something I love and respect. It’s always refreshing to add a new twist to a well-known tale… although not all the original versions of fairytales are told to young children. The little mermaid doesn’t live happily ever after with her prince (he marries another, and she dies of grief); Hansel and Gretel, lost in the woods because of their evil – no better word for it – mother, and caught in the clutches of the forest witch, commit murder after all, even if it was in self-defence… There is no better word for Grimm’s fairytales than grim (no doubt where our understanding, the origin, of the word ‘grim’ comes from). In THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, the prince isn’t the hero who swoops in to save the day. Heavens, no. On the contrary: it is the sassy, headstrong Tiana who takes the lead, and who also helps to change the prince’s attitude and high regard of himself.

As mentioned, this is Disney’s first non-white Princess (yes, I know Jasmine is Arabian, but you know what I mean), something over which many people have had debates and speculations. I even read an article which relates how “Black parents teach young girls significance of Disney’s first black princess” (http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5hsoUK7rcLX0F22itnQ18De-owfWw). It is true that, in the past, non-white folk were treated as slaves. Not only treated – they were slaves. Go check your history on New Orleans, especially the jazz bit, which makes it fun 🙂 What concerns many critics about the new Disney Princess film, is the fact that not only race is looked at, but the fact that stereotypes are contested, or rather, that original notions and stereotypes of race (and, accordingly, rank) could either be endorsed/ encouraged or cause them to change into vapour and disappear, just like fog (although the bayou fog in New Orleans never diminishes… just an aside, no real reason for it, I just found the image and correlation in my head).

I’m not sure if I completely agree with the concerns of the critics. I’m just glad that we’re going to have a classical, 2D, fun-loving and sing-along music-filled new Princess film to watch. That, and of course a jazz-singing alligator – what could be better?!

Frog prince




One response

16 11 2009
Twitted by LiskeKitten

[…] This post was Twitted by LiskeKitten […]

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