Folks, Disney is not less racist than before because it tacked on a Black princess

The Princess and the Frog again: white folks that I know come to me in confessional and tell me they think the film was racist and they know it but like/saw it anyway and let their kids watch it. They still take their kids to Disney World at least once a year. Disney can’t get it right, so when are we going stop wanting and feeling like we need to be included in Disney’s fantastical, wonderful world? And when are our so-called allies going to join our staunch allies and just say NO?

Why does it have to be “I love Disney, but….”? You could just as easily flip that sentence around and say “Disney is racist, classist, and sexist but I still love it”. Those statements are alarmingly similar if you ask me.

Continuing with our analytical look at The Princess and The Frog, an insightful two part response to the film from Black feminist blogger Ms Queenly, deconstructing aspects of Tiana’s image and asking why reviewers consider “not entirely racist” to be an acceptable media standard.

Read Part One and Part Two

Disney's Dolls

The skin colour of the female characters in Disney’s recent animated films
may be different and the marketing more sophisticated. 

But Kathi Maio argues that underneath all the buckskin and the scales
they’re still happy homemakers looking for a man.

It is more than a little ironic that the Walt Disney Company’s current animated feature, Mulan, retells an age-old legend about the Chinese successfully fighting off a foreign invasion. The American media giant chose to make this particular story into its 36th animated feature precisely because it was the perfect vehicle for a strategic incursion into the Chinese film market.

The legendary woman warrior, Hua Mu-Lan, who bravely fought off alien onslaughts has now herself become an agent of a US conglomerate’s ambition to dominate the culture of Asia – and the entire globe.

It’s a heavy burden for one young, doe-eyed heroine to bear. But so it is for all of the young women Disney has co-opted for the screen. They aren’t simply cartoons. They are symbols of the times – and one company’s measurement of how their target audiences want to see women.

An excellent (if rather old) article about Disney’s heroines - the negative messages in their stories, and how little they’ve really changed. I would certainly say that these problematic themes have carried over into more recent films. Disney still require every heroine to settle down with a man, still try to placate critics with token ‘independent woman’ traits (look, she has an ambition, she’s a feminist now), still capitalise on the perceived exoticism of non-white characters, and still present idyllic, whitewashed accounts of history.

What does everyone else think?

Disney turns over a new leaf, finds fresh reserves of racism underneath.

Disney turns over a new leaf, finds fresh reserves of racism underneath.

This site logs the experiences of one parent and my quest to reclaim my daughter’s imagination after it was hijacked by Disney Princesses.

WHY THE CONCERN

I’m a psychotherapist with training in play therapy. I spent my first years out of graduate school working with sexually abused kids, observing their play, and guiding them toward recovery. As the child healed, their play reflected more typical themes of play of a child their age, whether 2 or 12. When younger children are in therapy, play is used to as the mode of communication because it reflects the child’s world, their understanding of the universe. Watch a child play for 20 minutes and you will learn more about him or her than through 20 minutes of asking them questions.


I noticed some things in my daughter’s play that were red flags to me, such as:


1. Rigidity in Role: Putting on a Disney Princess Dress, my often running/jumping child became stiff and kept her hands at her side stating, “Princesses don’t run or jump.”


2. Helpless Heroine: With her hands at her face, she would look around in dismay then go sit on our step stating, “Princesses have to wait for the Prince.”

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Take note, ladies.

Take note, ladies.

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Lea R. snapped these photographs of wall decorations sold at Target.  As she explained, though they look like magazines, they’re not.  They’re meant to be hung on the wall of a girl’s room.  What is so remarkable about them is the blending of celebrity culture and the Disney princess brand.  The product suggests that while it is all well and good to be a princess, you should aim to be a famous princess.  In addition to occupying castles and fantasy forests, you should grace the covers of magazines.  You should aspire to inspire the lust and admiration of the masses, not just your prince. 

- Lisa Wade, Sociological Images

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