I was super excited to see The Princess and the Frog, and knowing I was gonna be in Chapel Hill, where my little sister, Ellie, is, my father and Patricia, Ellie’s mom, and I decided to go. So we went this afternoon, and my overall review is “YES!” it was actually a decent movie–funny, good songs, beautiful classic Disney drawings, an empowered female lead, variety in races (and inter-racial/cultural dating) but not a lot of outward focus on it and loving fathers who support their daughters emotionally.
Tiana is the main character. A lot of focus has been put on her race (she’s black, if you hadn’t heard), but the film doesn’t outright address this, which I actually think is quite progressive. She is clearly lower class, and it is evident that her neighborhood is black and poor; the family her mother sews fo is white and rich. But there are others who are both white and black who populate the New Orleans landscape and who are not obviously poor nor rich, which I think is somewhat accurate/realistic. So race-wise, I actually found it appropriate (it is set in the past). Also, the father of Charlotte, the rich white girl for whom Tiana’s mother sews sparkly princess dresses, is respectful towards Tiana’s mother. I also like that Charlotte, despite being white and rich, while sometimes oblivious to the woes of Tiana’s life, is at her core supportive and not out to get her–she is a decent person, unlike, say, the evil stepsisters in Cinderella. So in terms of how the film portrays and deals with both class and race, I actually am quite impressed.
The main relationship, between Tiana and Prince Naveen, is one that is both inter-racial and inter-cultural (he’s the prince of Macedavia or something?), which isn’t even spoken addressed as a problem to deal with. Prince Naveen is also a potential suitor for Charlotte, which is interesting–that this man of unidentified race could marry either a black or white woman I think is great.
In terms of strong female leads, I definitely think this film ranks #1 of Disney films. Tiana is sure of herself, has dreams that she’s working hard to fulfill (and which she was encouraged to work hard to obtain by her father), but still is open to romance. I love all of this. There’s also a point when Prince Naveen realizes he loves Tiana but he is willing to let her go if he can help her acheive her dream of opening a resaurant. Brilliant! I actually think this is my favorite component of the movie, precisely because the biggest issue I had with a story like the Little Mermaid is that Ariel had to give up her voice, family and species to fulfill her romantic destiny, which is just disturbing. Tiana gets a man who supports her in getting what she wants.
I am really relieved by seeing the movie–it gives me hope for this generation of young people both in terms of race/class and also romantic relationships, and I am delighted to have a fun children’s movie that I wouldn’t feel bad about showing my kids, with a message that luck and hard work are what it takes to get ahead in life. So, I find myself saying, well done, Disney. I admit I’m a little surprised. But pleasantly.