Celebrating The Princess and The Frog

What columnists say Disney's first movie to feature a black princess got right--mostly

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Friday, Disney's first black princess makes her debut. Disney isn't exactly known for its forward-thinking fairytales, and for months, some have expressed concerns about how Disney would portray its first black princess, from what texture her hair should be to what prince charming should look like. But so far, most columnists say they are pleasantly surprised: The Princess and the Frog got it right--mostly. Not everyone is satisfied. Yet here's what critics love about Princess Tiana and the colorful, mystical world of 1920s New Orleans she lives in:

  • Disney's First Feminist Fairytale  "I thought Tiana's race would be the only reason this movie would be good for Ruth and tolerable for me. I was wrong," Sara Sarasohn writes at The Washington Post. 
Tiana is the princess I didn't know I had been waiting for my whole life. She is culturally nuanced, beautifully dressed, able to take care of herself but blessed with a wonderful marriage to someone who loves her. It made me cry to see, in a Disney movie, a black woman wearing a tiara and running her own business. I felt so lucky to be able to do something with my daughter that my mother could never have done with me: watch a Disney princess we both could feel good about.
  • The Liberated Princess  The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday says "the most gratifying element is Tiana herself, who is refreshing and even revolutionary not only because she embodies a much-needed alternative to the blond, blue-eyed Disney ideal, but because she evinces an ethic of hard work and perseverance that takes the classic princess trope out of passivity and helplessness and into competence and self-determination. (In a clever twist, if anyone is helpless in "The Princess and the Frog," it's the prince.)"
  • An Independent Woman, And an Interracial Marriage  Beliefnet's Nell Minow finds two more reasons to celebrate the film. Princess Tiana, she writes, "is an independent, self-supporting, hard-working woman with ambition that goes beyond some sort of romantic rescue." There's more: "I like the inter-racial romance," Minow writes.
  • An Honest, If Light Treatment of Race  The Root's Teresa Wiltz isn't thrilled with every aspect of the film, but says Disney had a lot to live up to, and "tread a fine line between attempting authenticity and keeping the fantasy alive" fairly successfully. "'The Princess and the Frog' charms and entertains, while not ignoring certain class and race realities, from Tiana and her mother sitting on the back of the trolley car to two white bankers dismissing Tiana’s business plans because of her 'background,'" Wiltz writes.

Then there are those that are less than thrilled:

  • Feels Like Baby Steps To Me  The Los Angeles Times's Betsy Sharkey liked the film, but said Disney may not have taken enough risks. "Whether it's a worry about offending African Americans with 'cartoonish' exaggeration, or a desire to make the film palatable for white audiences, or both, the animators have been very careful with their pens when it comes to drawing black characters on the page," she writes. "Just about everyone here has 'good hair,' and Tiana could be Halle Berry's kissing cousin."
  • Forget Disney  At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates says there are better fairytales to be had for his son. "The only frog-prince I care about is Susan Mitchell's," he writes, referring to the American writer's poem, From the Journals of the Frog Prince.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.