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

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

Didn’t catch Part I? Check it out here.

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.

When we say NO, with everything in us, we won’t have to preface criticisms with “I love [insert problematic thing here], but…”.

In my case, I love the Kingdom Hearts videogames—not a Black person as a main character in sight in those games and Disney had their hands all over it. At the same time I don’t go around professing my love of Disney. I grew out of my sometimes blind love as a child for Disney gradually, starting with the appropriation and misrepresentation of Pocahontas as a fairytale and when that stuff in Fantasia was brought to my attention, it was just another nail in the coffin. Disney, in some ways, cultivated my vision of the fantastical when I was growing up and at the same time I have felt in recent years most acutely that it is completely necessary to hold Disney at an arm’s length and set it away from me. The addition of a Black Disney princess has not changed that, and nor will the next Kingdom Hearts game or the next catchy song in their animated feature or Johnny Depp in Pirates.

The piece I read at the satirical blog, The People’s News, made light of Black people’s criticisms of the film trailer supposedly in attempt to spark discussion. One piece I read is titled this and offers the opinion that “The Princess and the Frog is not (entirely) racist” (and so it’s okay because the movie isn’t “entirely” racist???). Not to jump down the throat of the guy who wrote that, but, again, why are we drawing the line at what is “acceptably racist” instead of maintaining that racism is never okay? A share of the articles were very tentative about criticizing the film so their arguments processed in my mind as helpful but kind of lukewarm. But most of all the articles I’ve ever read on the subject are from people who confess to be Disney fans.

“I hold Disney movies very close to my heart but is anyone else ever put off by some of the underlying messages?”

Not Quite Going the Distance, Develle Dish

And that’s the trouble: We’re holding things like Disney so close to our hearts that we’re also refusing to acknowledge that what we love about it is too tangled up in what we criticize and want to change and what needs to be replaced with radical alternatives. Because Disney is not going to crumble to the ground tomorrow, not as long as people are supporting the negative things it does as a corporation that appropriates and panders watered-down, magicked-up fairytales. In this case, it is our love that renders us unable to raise our hand against that which dehumanizes us and those around us.

“This movie shows anything but the overcoming of stereotypes in Disney films. So until the real deal comes along, stay in your seats”

The Oberlin Review Blog

Nice try. That’s ifthe real deal comes along. I don’t even think Disney, as a corporation, is capable of “the real deal”…. A history and pattern of media production like the one the Walt Disney Corporation has just doesn’t disappear.

Sunflower from Disney's Fantasia (1940). She is not only the servant to a white, female centaur, she herself is part-donkey. Centaurs are usually horse hybrids.

evermore real,

Ms. Queenly

7 thoughts on “Folks, Disney is not less racist than before because it tacked on a Black princess Pt. II

  1. Pingback: Folks, Disney is not less racist than before because it tacked on a Black princess | Elia's Diamonds

  2. Pingback: Tacking on a Black princess still makes Disney racist as fuck « Ars Marginal

  3. Whether it’s through their advertising down to their merchaindise itself; ex., girls clothing,posters, it’s so apparent that Disney doesn’t consider the “ethnic” Princesses (particularly Princess Tiana) significant. Blatent placements of the ethnic Princesses displayed much smaller and ALWAYS in the background, always at the end, if any are included at all, while every white princess is always shown larger and in the foreground. They can assume that doing this to their Disney Princess merchaindise is subliminal, but it’s evident to anyone with eyes. It is for this reason that, as an African American parent of a 4 year old girl that wants desperately to have some strong and even representation of a Princess among Princesses, that I DO NOT support the Disney franchise.

    • I’ve definitely noticed and criticized the stuff you’re talking about here in my daily life, much to my family’s annoyance. I appreciate your strong stance, especially as a African-American/Black parent, I share the same stance, I wish more Black parents would as well. People need to become more critical of what Disney is doing, especially communities of color instead of just sucking it up.

  4. About the whole Kingdom Hearts thing… I always considered Ansem (from the first game) black, and he was one of my favorite characters in the series. And I’ve long since noticed that he gets very little fanart or fanfiction, which is unusual since villains tend to be popular with fans. But it’s not unusual when you think that brown/black characters usually get ignored or outright hated by fans in fandoms of all sorts; anime/manga, videogames, televison, etc. If you haven’t already, I think that this piece is something you would be interested in reading :http://www.racialicious.com/2011/10/18/fandom-and-its-hatred-of-black-women-characters/

    • Thank you for your comment and the link. I shared it on my tumblr. I don’t know if I thought of Ansem as Black, but I definitely noted that he was a brown person that they chose to portray as a villain.

  5. Ms. Queenly, you are absolutely right. I wrote the piece on The Princess & the Frog not being entirely racist, and I see how I was remiss in vacillating as I did. Disney IS racist, and it’s precisely for that reason that I have not spent a red cent on Disneyland/world/products/movies, etc. (with the exception of the Princess movie).

    Part of the problem I experienced with P&TF was the fact that it was a movie about a Black heroine on the big screen. WIth two daughters, I wanted them to see depictions of themselves in an animated movie to combat all the white representations that they are otherwise bombarded with. So I took them with a grain of salt, and legitimately enjoyed the movie.

    Critically assessing the movie through a different lense, I see that (in taking my children to the movie) I may have merely acquiesced to the perpetuation of the stereotypes that Disney is (in)famous for.

    Thank you for not throwing me under the bus in your post (c:,’

    Stephen Chukumba

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