Second-guessing Disney’s black princess

Disney’s first black princess, Tiana, is not PC enough for some critics. Princess Tiana, the star of an upcoming Disney movie, turns into a frog when she kisses the wrong frog and has to seek a voodoo queen to get the  curse lifted.  

Disney has already changed the profession of the princess (an aspiring restaurant entrepreneur instead of a chambermaid) and name (Tiana instead of Maddy, which critics thought was too similar to “Mammy”, a once-common term for black female slaves in white households). Tiana will be played by Anika Noni Rose, who starred in Dreamgirls, while Tiana’s mother will be played by the talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

The controversy has intensified after it was revealed that the film would be set in New Orleans and that Tiana would find love with a white prince — well, almost. His skin has been described as olive-toned and he will be voiced by Bruno Campos, a Brazilian actor.

When you think about it, the classic princesses — Cinderella and Snow White — worked as maids.

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  1. A voodoo queen? Only Disney could figure out a way to demonize (literally) a black princess.

  2. deirdremundy says:

    So an interracial couple is now RACIST? (rolls eyes)

    Of course, my daughters don’t care WHAT color the princess is, as long as she’s pretty. =)

  3. Tiana sounds more like a princess name IMHO than “Maddy” anyways.

    The Disney version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” also featured an interracial couple. Brandy played Cinderella and Filipino actor Paolo Montalban played the prince. I don’t recall there being controversy over that pairing.

  4. Mike Curtis says:

    Stop playing the race card…make the princess a doe eyed cockapoo named Curlie. Old school Disney had the formula: stay cute, make money.

  5. Tiana sounds more like an ethnic name IMHO than Maddy.

  6. @Crimson Wife –

    The Disney version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella had TWO inter-racial couples, and an inter-racial family. Whoopie Goldberg played the Queen, to Victor Garben’s King, and Brandi’s step-mother was Bernadette Peters, and her stepsisters were two different races.

    Like you, I don’t remember hearing any fussing about that. Of course, that was back in the “unenlightened” days – somewhere in the 1990s, wasn’t it?

  7. Was “Beauty and the Beast” interracial, or inter-species?

  8. No, an inter-racial couple isn’t racist, but it is in the tradition of racism that many African people in solitary/tokenized situations are not matched with those of their own heritage. Breaking up the African family was a program of slavery in this country and it took media form by showing few if any solid African family units. The Evans family in TV’s “Good Times” was one of the few up until later years into the 90’s when the largely de-culturized African family showed up. Point of reference….look up the challenges of Eric Lasalle as Benton in “ER” and his critiques of the writers and producers in putting him in repeated, but troubled relationships with African women, but his only sustainable one was with a European woman (British).

    And the voodoo connection does not demonize a character, but the portrayal can demonize voodoo. Voodoo, or better Vodou/Vodun, is a powerful African spiritual system that is practiced in many forms in many places by many people. Our USAmerican relationship to voodoo is one of comedy/tragedy, people largely ignorant of what and how it is, so when we hear of it, we assume it must be a negative connection. Standard christian policies demonize vodou and many other indigenous traditions, spiritual or otherwise.

    In addition, the Disney attempts to portray anything but weak, dependent women is almost non-existent. They are at least a constant disappointment to anyone who cares about education, clarity and cultural justice. Much of what Disney does is oppressive and shallow, sexist and racist all at once. I think they are better off leaving African people, Asians, Native Americans, merpeople, women and animals out of their stories altogether. Let them talk about what they know: narrow-minded, self-absorbed European, middle-aged men whose worldviews are as wide as the princesses’ barely-there waistlines and as deep as the one-dimensional characters they are used to creating.

    “as long as she’s pretty”? “stay cute, make money”?!? You’ve got to be kidding!!