Disney Offers Its First Black Princess and the Frog, but It's Still a Whitewash
Six decades after unleashing persistent NAACP bugaboo Song of the South (1946), that peculiar cultural institution known as the Walt Disney Co. has made a symbolic reparation by creating its first African-American princess—and plunking her down in the middle of Jim Crow-era Louisiana! For most of The Princess and the Frog's running time, that "princess," Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), is actually a waitress pulling double shifts in Jazz Age New Orleans, trying to scrape together enough cash to open her own restaurant. Enter the visiting Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos), who finds himself transformed into the titular amphibian by a voodoo priest and convinces Tiana to kiss him as a way of reversing the spell — only, instead, she turns all ribbity too. They say it ain't easy bein' green, but it's certainly a hell of a lot easier than being black. So writer/directors Ron Clements and John Musker (whose 1992 Aladdin proffered a sinister, ear-cutting Middle East) send newly anthropomorphic Tiana and Naveen hopping off into the bayou, where the movie's rampant a-historicism gives way to a veritable Mardi Gras parade of risible stereotypes, including an Acadian firefly and a trio of toothless hillbillies. "It's only a kids' movie!" you may argue, which is precisely what makes The Princess and the Frog such an insidious whitewash.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.