The Princess and the Frog on DVD – Unhealthy Messages

March 31, 2010

In Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden identifies “consciousness” as a basic tool of survival; the ability to be aware of the environment in some form and to guide one’s actions accordingly.

In her book about self-esteem Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem, bell hooks (yes, her name is written that way) said, “No black person in the United States can have any measure of self-esteem if he or she has not cultivated the capacity to be a critical thinker, to live consciously”.

So what does this have to do with The Princess and the Frog?

This was a monumental movie for young African American girls. Our first Disney African American princess. I went to see it with my god-daughter and her mom when it first came out. I so wanted to love this movie. There were so many really great things about it. I love the fact that Disney was back to hand drawing its characters. I didn’t even mind that most of the time the princess was a frog.

However, I walked out of the movie with a sick feeling in my stomach. Something was wrong about this movie. I needed to employ some critical consciousness. My first problem was that Disney could not create a African American or African prince for the princess. The message is not healthy for African American boys, and therefore not really very good for African American girls either. The movie suggests: 1) Black men are not princes, 2) Black men work themselves to an early grave 3) Black women need to go outside of the group to find happiness.

The prince in the movie for all I know could have been an African man, but that was not at all clear and from what I’ve read many are assuming he is white. The only clearly African American male that sustains himself throughout the movie is a power hungry, evil hustler who will manipulate and kill anyone who gets in his way.

I do believe people can love whomever they choose, but with the great lack of healthy African American relationships portrayed in American media this is a very sensitive issue. So, why would the folks at Disney decide to do it this way? For one thing, I do not think that they could have had an obviously African American or African man as the butt of every joke as the prince was in this movie. People like me would surely have complained about that too. Perhaps they did not believe they could pull off a believable Black prince. This is what happens when we let others tell our stories or any version of our stories.

If you really need a Disney fix for yourself or your children, I think they did an excellent job on the stage production of The Lion King. Most of the characters are typically played by African American or African actors. I realize that Broadway shows are somewhat less accessible than movies, but it is worth saving up for. I also say, even though it was quite silly, Coming To America does the job in terms of that fantasy element, with thoughtful characters. Please let me know if there are any other movies or books you know about that would be good alternatives.

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3 Responses to “The Princess and the Frog on DVD – Unhealthy Messages”

  1. Kevin said

    Kim, You’ve got a new fan. A thoughtful, important site that I’ll be checking regularly. Keep up the good work!
    Kevin, aka fakechineserubberplant.com

  2. Have you heard about the subliminal sexual messages throughout Disney’s films? I dunno, but there may be some truth to this… I actually watched a part in the Lion King, where the leaves blow to spell out S-E-X. It’s interesting…
    http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/tcom/faculty/ha/tcom103fall2003/gp13/gp13.pdf

    • Hi Leah: Thank you so much for the support! I did hear about the subliminal messages, but I haven’t seen any of those clips yet.

      I have to say, I am not surprised by anything media-driven these days. The goal is to hypnotize us into buying or seeing whatever. There is a whole field, The Psychology of Advertising, which is geared toward making us buy stuff. It is also very powerful in terms of shaping our attitudes about ourselves and others. (I know your recent arwork is about that and I cannot wait to see it!).

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