January 7, 2010

The Princess and the Frog Disappointment

When we heard about the movie the Princess and the Frog, we were pretty excited. Disney Princess movies and books are a favorite around here. But as movie time got closer and more details about the movie came out, I became a bit hesitant. We were pretty thrilled to finally get a black Disney princess, and knowing that she would become a frog shortly into the movie gave pause. But I thought for sure Disney would still pull it off with style and class.

Our friend whose daughter is the same age as Hannah Jane gave it a big thumbs up and said that there was absolutely nothing racially upsetting about it and that all of the controversy was for naught. She said that the biggest controversy in her mind was the fact that when the frog becomes a prince, he's not black and they are an interracial couple. Well, that gets a big WHO CARES? from me. I mentioned that he was probably French Creole and how that would be entirely contextually logical. She didn't know what French Creole was, so I just dropped it. It didn't seem like the appropriate time to launch into an equality speech.

So, we went for it. While we were in Tennessee we piled into Pa's van and took a family date to the movies. For the first few minutes I was in movie bliss. I was thinking, Yeah! This is all about working hard to achieve your dreams! Awesome! There was even a little food sentiment in there with a nod towards the unifying force of good food (which y'all know I can't resist). It was really working for me. But then...dun dun duhhhhhh....

They got all black magic up in there! I know there is always some reference to magical spells or happenings that can't really happen and it has never offended me before, but never has a Disney movie had such a focus on the dark magic. It was almost more of a focus than the determined little princess-to-be for a while. Quickly I found myself sitting there wishing that I had not brought the kids to it. I was talking myself down by thinking, For round one, she'll only focus on the pretty girl/frog getting to start her business and as long as we don't buy the DVD and let her get bored with the princess and start analyzing the black magic part of things, maybe this won't have and long lasting detrimental effects.

Admittedly, we do tend to be overprotective about anything with negative attitudes (like no Arthur on PBS because those kids can be filled with angst sometimes and no Charlie Brown because the sibling relationships are sometimes pretty negative). We think, why bother with shows and movies that are negative when there is so much out there that is primarily positive? So what does not work for me just might be fine with others. Usually. But I think this will hit a nerve for a lot of people. Maybe it already has. With no TV, I would not have seen it if there had been a major uproar.

So there was nothing overtly racist. Still someone determined to do so could draw a bad feeling from the presence of all the negative stuff in movie.

Having watched one of the foster children that stayed in our home say that she didn't want a black Barbie because they weren't as pretty as the white ones and then talk about how none of her cartoons had characters that looked like her, I was really hoping that Disney was going to set things right. I imagine that if I were a mother of one of the children who have been waiting to have a princess that looked a bit more like them, I would feel pretty disappointed that I still couldn't let my daughter get on board because Disney decided to muck it up with the Shadow Man. My guess is that most parents, regardless of race. will be at least slightly uncomfortable with all of the black magic junk.

There was one redeeming scene where the cute little Creole Lightning Bug was united in death with his heart's true love, Evangeline. They might have lost me completely without that. I actually teared up during that scene despite all of my anger about the rest of the movie (but I'm an easy target in the over emotional response department). And the music was great. Hannah Jane almost danced herself right out of her seat and Hunter's foot never stopped tapping. So, the kids liked it. That said, I don't tend to let them watch things that I feel are negative just because they think they're fun.

So let us not confuse racism with all of the real reasons not to see this movie. I'll stop now and just say it's not bad for the reasons that I heard people worry about, but more kind of on par with taking your 5 year old for a tarot reading. If you're into that sort of thing for kids, go right on ahead. But if you have always enjoyed the princess movies for their whimsical and mostly innocent adventures, sit this one out. Or soon your kid will be crying out in the night for the Voo-Doo Momma to save her from the Shadow Man!

I can't wait to hear what those of you who have already seen it with your kids think of it.

1 comment:

  1. You were here last month??? OMG- I wish I knew! I really want to see you next time you're here!


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