The First American Princess


Princess Tiana
Princess Tiana!

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and being at Disneyland this past weekend really drove the point home.  Frankly, I adore Disney, especially the classic “hand drawn” animations – with music. It just doesn’t get better than that.  Since I was little, I’ve been disappointed with the under- representation of my favorite princesses: Pocahontas and Esmeralda. Yes, they are princesses, and no, they are almost never included.  What’s up with that?  So with the addition of the new Princess Tiana, and her prominence – I just love it.

Why we should be celebrating “The Princess and the Frog” is not merely because Princess Tiana is African-American, but because of the second part of that title.  She is American.  Just as young black girls now have a princess who “looks” like them, all young American girls of any race , ethnicity, or creed have a Princess who represents them.  She is not of France, England, the Ocean, the Americas during British Colonialism, or a fantasy world where Princesses really exist.

Am I supposed to identitfy with Belle because we both have frighteningly pale skin and auburn-brown hair?  I hope not.  Maybe I like that she reads, or that she’s quirky, or I don’t know, because she has a really great peasant dress.  In our search for a colorblind society, how much good are we doing ourselves when we refuse to be just that: colorblind?

Princess Tiana is our own – for everyone to believe in, look up to and love.  She embodies American values, American tradition, and perhaps most importantly, American dreams.  She is the epitome of hard work, perseverance, and triumphing through adversity.  Instead of bringing another racial divide to our culture, of “who” has “what” Princess, why don’t we all love Princess Tiana’s charm, wit, determination, and beauty, together…as Americans.

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2 thoughts on “The First American Princess

  1. Really interesting idea! Great post! I took a class while visiting at Haverford College about myths (yeah, liberal arts: there is such a class!), and this was what we talked about: a school’s theater production that forces the lead to be African-American or a woman when the lead clearly should be Anglo-American or a man is taking away from the themes the play actually wants to focus on. So we wonder, is making this Disney princess African-American not a phenomenon of the same kind? Well, think of the MYTH. The MYTH here, the grain of magic that we take from the theater that we call myth, is not love, or gender politics, but NEW ORLEANS and AMERICA and DREAMS. The fact that the myth is a wide one and an American one lets us enjoy this film without any quibbling over race. If love were the focus, this film would fall apart–love has been done by Disney before, and quite well. Love happens in “Princess and the Frog”, but because the myth is pursued, and not the other way around. So that’s focusing on the creation of the myth within the film. Outside of the film, in our own lives, we create our own status quos and myths. The myth of the jock or popular kid or nerd or loner, or whatever. And then going even more individually, the myth we create and show to the world. The myth Disney created was of a strong African-American female rising up in New Orleans in America. And there ya go.

    Again, I really like your blog! Keep it up in college if you can.

    Like

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