Yesterday, I went to see the Princess and the Frog at the Showcase Cinema in Bristol. As it’s a pretty recent release and its being at Saturday, the cinema was reasonably full of little girls, a great many of whom were of African heritage. About time too! This is the first Disney that has ever featured lead characters who look African American. Can this breakthrough be (at least in part) a reaction to the U.S electing Barak O’Bama? Maybe. It’s hard to see why it’s taken so long. It’s been more than half a century since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, yet American society, as portrayed in Hollywood has remained eurocentric.
My daughter, with whom I watched the movie. remarked that she had had a lot of Disney ‘Princesses’ with whom she could identify, indeed we have seen them all from Snow White to Beauty and the Beast, with all stops inbetween, yet this was the first time that youngsters with an African heritage had had a main character with whom they could identify. Of course, Disney did give us Mulan, a Chinese heroine, but she wasn’t a princess and had to pretend to be a boy in any case. So, whilst I can applaud the fact that Disney has finally taken this turn, I am also disappointed that the main message of this film is that a Princess ‘needs’ her Prince. Don’t get me wrong, the film is fun. It has a cajun firefly, named Raymond, all gap teeth and heart and a lumbering ‘Gator named Louis whose ambition is to play his trumpet in a Jazz band. Nonetheless, it has some hard things to say about life choices in that whilst you may ‘want’ something (in this case a career owning her own restraunt) you won’t be happy unless you have what you ‘need.’ (a Prince). I guess that if it’s taken Disney over 50 years to cope with the civil rights movement, we’ll have to wait a little longer for feminism to make its mark. Here’s hoping!