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Ancient Egyptian Wisdom ... Daily Practice

Monday, May 4, 2009

Disney's First Black Princess Doesn't Negate Its History

When the Princess and the Frog opens this November, Disney will make history. In case you hadn't heard, 72 years after the debut of Cinderella, Disney will release its first movie with an African American princess. While the story is a update of an old British fairy tale, today's heroine is a waitress in a New Orleans who shares her father's dream—to open her own restaurant. She ends up kissing a frog ... and turning into one. Sure this frog is actually a prince (aren't they all?) , but to live happily ever after, Tiana must find a mystical voodoo priestess to change her back.

Did I mention Disney pulled out all the stops on this one? They convened focus groups with African American activists and got none other than Tony Award winning Anika Noni Rose to voice the lead (seems The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is finding its way into my posts). Other characters will be voiced by Oprah Winfrey, Keith David, and Terrance Howard. Shouldn't we give Disney their props? After all, Malia and Sasha aren't the only princesses anymore, right? I think not! I say their recent change of heart shouldn't have us forget their painful history.

Remember just a few years ago when Disney was on its international kick? In what was perhaps their first foray into portraying characters of color, they decided to depict "ethnic" characters in full cultural motif in different parts of the world. In fact, all of the main characters were royalty as well. In the so-called "Middle East", they produced Aladdin. In China, they brought forth Mulan. In the New World, it was Pocahontas. When they got to Africa, what did they do? The produced the Lion King ... a film without humans.

Sure the racist bent here is subtle. After all it was a pretty good story, right? And the Broadway play was impeccably produced, right? I think Disney should still be ashamed of themselves. We must ask ourselves what kinds for messages our children are receiving. Africa is devoid of human civilization and culture ... it is a land populated by ANIMALS. Can we actually blame people when they have such a hard time recognizing high culture and civilization in Africa? How could Africans have created cultures that were far more advanced than European civilizations from millennia later?

Am I being harsh on Disney? I think not ... let's not forget the litany of racist characters they spawned. Some characters are so despicable that Disney barely acknowledges their existence—like Fantasia's servant, Sunflower the Centaur.

How about the black singing crows in Dumbo (see video below)? Furthermore, why the hell did they see fit to try to sanitize the racist Tarzan character anyway? They still felt nostalgic enough about these affronts to our image that they needed try to redeem them. Don't get upset when we bring up the past when you keep making them our present. What's next, Aunt Jemima with a perm!? Oh, wait a minute ...

I say this history should not be forgotten. Particularly since once we turn away from the television ... our children are still watching. Sorry, Tiana. I'm gonna need alot more convincing.

1 comment:

Djeden Ma'at Aten-Ra said...

By the way ... as I think about how insidiously planned Disney's racist images are. It occured to me my they decided to create the Black crows in Dumbo. IT'S A REFERENCE TO JIM CROW!!! Sure, we should all laugh at one of the most painful periods in our history.