Monday, September 3, 2007

A girl like me: Disney's first black princess

"The Frog Princess", a film set for release in 2009, and Walt Disney's first film since their pledge to return to animated films will feature the Studio's first black princess. Though little has been uncovered about the plot, the film will be scored by Randy Newman, set in New Orleans, and will star a girl named Maddy.

When I heard the news, I was ecstatic!

As a child I sat obsessed with Disney animated films whenever I was given the chance to watch television. I am and have always been a dreamer, and Walt and company consistently explored and shaped my imagination with their beautiful characters and charming storylines.

I was disillusioned, however, towards the end of elementary school at a sleepover with some of my closest friends. The girls were all white with the exception of my friend Kay, who is Mexican-American. Towards the end of the night we began to play with the hostess' dolls, which were all Disney collectibles. I remember wanting to be Belle since I related most to her love for her father. "She doesn't look like you," the hostess said, and took the doll for herself. One by one, the girls chose dolls that "looked like them". The blond girls snatched Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the brunette girls reached for Snow White and Ariel, and me and Kay just sat dumbfounded and confused at the commotion.

We held hands while the other girls quickly claimed and grabbed the princesses, young but still aware of what was happening, and discovering by the second what we were destined to face our entire lives. Finally, when the room quieted and the commotion died down, Kay and I looked at the playroom floor. Princess Jasmine lay lifeless, hair rumpled and almost teary eyed that she too was the last to be chosen. The hostess and the other girls stared at Kay and I as they all sat in a circle with their princesses in their laps. They looked back and forth from Jasmine, to Kay and I. "Kay, you should take Jasmine," one of the girls finally said. My heart dropped. Kay squeezed my hand. "She's not Mexican," Kay said. I laughed. "No, but she looks like you," the hostess said.

We ended up watching television instead.

Needless to say the experience stayed with me.

Kudos to Disney! Let's hope the film is worth waiting for. Let's hope Disney knows how to tell the story of a girl like me.

-Wayetu Moore

1 comment:

Wendi Muse said...

yeah super kudos on the one hand, big boo on the other for having waited THIS LONG to do it. i mean considering the demographic makeup of the united states, the fact that other minority groups were covered by disney, albeit poorly, before a main black character is surprising. i wonder what stereotypes will be in store for us this time around? i lost faith in disney a long time ago, though my reasons were coupled with my having taken issue with the blatant sexism in their work as well.

i am keeping my fingers crossed that maddy will turn out to be a positive role model for black girls (and other girls, for that matter, as black girls should be seen as sharing universal experience with other girls), but we shall see...