The Princess and the Tropes
The Princess and the Frog debuted in 2009. The year marked the arrival of the first black Disney princess and was considered to be long overdue; it had several expectations to live up to. When it was finally released it was celebrated for the monumental occasion, but did it really satisfy the importance of implementing a black princess into mainstream media?
The narrative that this movie set forth would set a lasting precedent of black representation in the black community for years to come. The stereotypes and implications had to be handled delicately. While it is considered a delightful movie, it was flawed in the management of the narrative. The movie followed Tiana as she worked to build her own restaurant, and after being mistaken for a princess, she kisses a frog and inadvertently becomes one. The movie follows the two frogs as they each try to return to their normal, non-amphibian lives.
The movie is centered around the hard-working nature of Tiana. It is true that black women across the globe can relate to Tiana’s struggles and her work ethic, however black women are often defined by the same traits. Black women are often limited to being strong black women, and the other range of emotions have been neglected. The story of the hard-working black woman has been told over and over again, but Princess and the Frog had the opportunity to explore more than this. Just because a strong work ethic is valuable and has been applicable to white princesses, it doesn’t translate the same way for a black woman. Black women have been treated as the support beams that hold up the infrastructure of society and expected to work hard since slavery, and the role has stuck since then. The movie had a chance to deviate from this norm, but further implemented it instead.
During her trek to turning back to a human, Tiana leads the way. And what a long way it was. In fact, her journey took most of the movie, meaning she was a frog for most of the movie. One of the most important points of Princess and the Frog was representation; it was supposed to provide young black girls with a character in which to base their aspirations. Instead, the movie reduced Tiana to a frog to propel the plot forward. The visual imagery was necessary to influence the audience and it wasn’t made a priority.
Following behind Tiana was her companion Prince Naveen. Prince Naveen was a spoiled prince, who was learning about life outside of the palace. He was able to find a sense of altruism and sort out his narcissism by falling in love with Tiana. This storyline continues to play into the story of white men looking to black women to solve their problems. While it is important to feature interracial relationships, this romance fell too close to the stereotypes. Interracial relationships have a better audience in non animated media were biracial actors can share their stories rather than being strictly cast in roles designed for monoracial black women. Each one is important, but must be told in adequate spaces or the message is lost. The Princess and the Frog didn’t capture the nuances of the interracial relationship, but perhaps that’s because a children’s movie wasn’t quite the right venue to tackle it.
Since Disney opted to pair Tiana with a white prince, there is still a void in Disney royalty for a black prince. While boys were not the target audience here, the absences of the black male still renders an effect. Black men are considered aggressive and scary. By excluding them from the movie it reinforces the idea that they can’t be charming or noble like a prince. The erasure from black men in this romance furthers an ideal that shows up further in life. More black men reject black women in favor of other races and dehumanize them in the process, especially dark skinned women. The lack of black love in media engenders behaviour that promotes colorism and self hate. The movie surrounds a black princess, and didn’t encompass her whole heritage. The relationship between the sole representative of black girls in the Disney princess line up and the missing black male was unbalanced.
The Princess and the Frog definitely left an impression on the world. Despite its faults, it will always be significant in cinematic history. A black princess finally had her tiara, but there was room for improvement. Her problems and roles in the movie did reflect the lives of many like her, but still other black women didn’t come to see their lives. The movie was thought to be an escape, to slip into the world of fantasy, not a continuation of reality. The movie was a chance to see what life could be, a glowing beacon of hope for young girls for better days.