Thursday, March 22, 2007

but do we really need another princess?

ok, so we could use a little more diversity amongst the awkward rebellious teenaged disney royalty but another princess?

can't disney animate a few dozen more everyday humdrum girls of color? it sounds like that's what we really need.

and for the record - no, mulan is NOT really a princess - show me where in EITHER mulan film, she magically becomes a princess. she rescues three princesses in that last film. but, c'mon, let's call her what she is, ok? "hun *ss kicker" is NOT a bad title.

however, having a daughter who is princess obsessed i am curious about the new african american disney princess - maddy.

after reading some articles, some things i found interesting:

1) my guess is the film is loosely based on the frog prince fairy tale... probably one of my least favorite fairy tales because the princess is such a spoiled brat and after all her eye rolling and whimpering and complaining she STILL gets the prince. maybe this time around, the dis-enchanted frog, gets a clue and up and walks AWAY from the royal...

2) the film is called "the frog princess" so, does that mean she's the one getting turned into a frog and then kissed? is the debutante (see cast list bbelow) taking over the role of the princess and maddy the chambermaid walking away with the prince? and what's up with all these princesses needing saving anyway....

3) people are assuming her prince is caucasian (see cast list below) let's hope disney thinks outside the box in more ways than one in this instance too... 'cause disney, not all of our good men have to be caucasian, kiss-bestowing, shoe-toting, horse-riding, enchanted princes in shining armor. blah, blah, blah, thank you for throwing us a bone aladdin.

4) i always thought that princess kida from atlantis would be crowned the first aa princess. it seemed like that was what the animators were implying. i believe kida was also voiced by mixed actress, cree summer. i dunno, the atlanteans looked poc to me. and i mean if they can make a mermaid from a danish fairy tale a princess. can't they do the same for an atlantean princess. she wasn't a ball gown wearing princess either. she kicked *ss too.

though i have to admit i wasn't sure how she changed/ lightened her skin color from "atlantis: the lost empire"

to "atlantis: milo's return"

5) lastly, a list of characters... how are they going to steer away from stereotypes in this one?

Maddy - A 19-year-old chambermaid.

Charlotte La Bouff - A 18-year-old spoiled, southern Debutante and Diva.

Dr. Duvalier - An African American Voodoo magician/fortune teller. The villain of the movie.

Mama Odie - An elderly, 200-year-old Voodoo priestess/fairy god-mother.

Ray - A lovesick Cajun firefly.

Louis - A Jazz singer alligator.

Prince Harry - A gregarious, fun-loving European Prince, in his early twenties.

Lawrence - Prince Harry's pompous valet.

Big Daddy La Bouff - Wealthy, Southern plantation landowner and father of Charlotte La Bouff.

Eudora - Maddy's mother. In her fifties. Used to be Charlotte's nurse maid.

George - The La Bouff family's cook.

Little Arila - Maddy's little sister. She's little, but very smart.


Angela said...

Since it's by Disney, frankly, I don't have high hopes that it will be something that is enlightened or sensitive to cultural/racial issues, so I'll have to wait and see if my cynical and negative views come true. Thanks for letting me know about this.

Anonymous said...

Right, I heard about this. I have such a hard time with "ethnicizing" traditional stories (even if they're updated for a more contemporary feel), because I don't like how women are represented even in the mainstream stories. It's like Tyra Banks saying she broke down walls by being the first black woman on the cover to SI swimsuit edition. Okaaay ... so the road to racial equality is to get to do the things that white people do, in representations that white people still control?Creepy. Should the goal be to reach mainstream assimilation and acceptance, I just don't know.

I guess it is a step in the right direction though. Because yeah, poc's, when they do appear, are usually other-worldly, mystical, etc. as opposed to being the characters you are meant to relate to the most.

Barb said...

What about a cat princess? That's cat, not catty. I've got one here at home, Princess Hopper, who even has a medallion that says "Princess" on her Coach -- yeah, you read that right -- collar.

Too bad Coach doesn't make cat collars anymore. :(

I was never a big fan of Disney.

Irene said...

I don't have girls, but I would love to be a princess. But I want to be the kind that can wear jeans and I don't have to be all sparkley and wear pink - Bah!

mamazilla said...

angela - i know, i have very little faith in any corporate "diverse" girl stuff... barbie, polly pocket, strawberry shortcake, bratz... i'm jaded and not very hopeful about it.

bokumbop - that whole tyra thing was weird... i don't think she even knows who she is anymore. she has allowed a "beauty" centric media define her.

barb - in that movie, the aristocats, the mom cat could be considered a princess i suppose... that movie wasn't too bad except for that horrible bucktoothed siamese with the ching chong thing going on...

irene - you're already queen of the household... you can wear whatever you want! :)

Rachel said...

Yes, I share your ambivalence. Cool that they finally have a black princess, but I'm not a fan of the princess crap in general. Also, it sounds like they're going to play the New Orleans schtick to the max, and that gets tired after a while. Voodoo? Plantations? Mammies? Puh-lease.

Barb said...

Never saw it, but yeah, a "ching chong" Siamese would totally bother me, especially since I have one. Well, he's part Siamese, part tabby, but still.

mamazilla said...

rachel - it's a nightmare... the minute i think about disney taking on new orleans... i see witches and alligators singing about pralines and beignets...

barb - to me, the uncontroversial release of a film like the aristocrats and the controversial release of song of the south is so hypocritical. disney again is saying it's ok to stereotype asians but it's not ok to stereotype african americans.

PamConnell said...

I can recommend an alternative: a 1997 version of Rodgers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella musical which stars Brandy as Cinderella, Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother and Whoopi Goldberg as the Queen (who, with a White king, has apparently produced or adopted a Hispanic prince). One of the wicked stepsisters is AA also. Seinfeld's Jason Alexander is hysterical as the palace staff member trying to find a bride who will please his unconventional prince. It's a really fun musical

mamazilla said...

pamconnell - thanks for stopping by and for the recomendation! i'll try to find it - hopefully, it hasn't been locked away in "THE DISNEY VAULT". :)

irene said...

just a correction: the prince in the '97 version of cinderella is filipino... i know it was out on video for a while. you may be able to find it either on amazon or used at least.

minorquake said...

i hadn't realized another irene posted before i had...from a different name but the same poster as the one right above this one.

i also wanted to add that im thankful that parents are blogging about things like this... i just discovered these blogs when i was browsing tonight... i wish i had known about them sooner but i'm happy i had something to stumble upon this particular night.

i don't have any kids myself but my sister has three little ones and i worry about the 4yo who is also obsessed w/ princesses. it broke my heart and completely stunned me when we were playing w/ her disney princess dolls and she chose belle and sleeping beauty and gave me pocahontas and mulan because they were the "bad princesses." i hadn't expected this nor really knew how to address it... in retrospect, i wish i had asked her questions because perhaps she wasn't saying they were bad for reasons of race but bad because they were not typical princesses, which isnt really any better, or maybe she was thinking of something else. but either way, she made a distinction and a value judgment that could very well have been based on race and typical notions of what a princess does and should be.

this was also followed by a conversation i overheard my sister having with her where val (my sister) was asking if serena (her little girl) knew that being chinese and filipina and having black hair and brown eyes was also beautiful. the answer was a heartbreaking no...

however, a few months later, they had moved on to Wicked, the musical, and serena had developed a connection with elphaba, the misunderstood witch of the west. it was a huge triumph when she declared that she wanted to be like green-toned elphaba because she had black hair, rather than glinda who had blonde curly hair, a poofy dress, a sparkling wand, and a paler complexion.

so anyway, that was a long preface to this suggestion: maybe looking at the story of Wicked (which is full of social and political parallels... ie the wicked witch of the west is a misunderstood activist of color... but isn't too heavy handed) would help expand the princess definition a bit to a broader and more positive "heroine."

anyway, thanks for your reflections. i wish my sister had time to read these but for now, she'll have to settle for hearing them second hand.

mamazilla said...

irene - omg. i just checked paolo montalban. HOTTIE!

minorquake - i know that feeling that heartbreak. thankfully, paloma is grasping little by little the idea of difference. i think in a strange way it helps that i look the way i do too. i'm not "symmetrical" like the other mommies. but she knows that i'm her mommy and not a "bad" mommy.

i think we're also lucky that we live nearby my family so she's exposed to filipinos and filipino culture. our recent trip to the philippines really opened her eyes too. :)

shaybunny said...

I believe she is the frog in the story. Im pretty pissed about her prince being white too. I agree not all of our men have to be "caucasian, kiss-bestowing, shoe-toting, horse-riding, enchanted princes in shining armor". We need some loving, down to earth, chocolate princes in these films.


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