The Princess and the Frog: Disney Runs Afoul of Race

Six decades after unleashing the persistent NAACP bugaboo Song of the South (1946), that peculiar cultural institution known as the Walt Disney Company 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 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, finding himself transformed into the titular amphibian by a voodoo priest, convinces Tiana to kiss him to reverse 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 ahistoricism 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 Frog such an insidious whitewash.

 
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