Open Thread: The Princess and the Frog

by Latoya Peterson


Nadra and Andrea are still working on their response/conversation about the Princess & the Frog, but we have received requests for a conversation.  Consider this open thread a place holder.

Some things of note:

  • Jeff Yang and I had a long (think two hours) conversation about the Princess and the Frog, the nature of Princess, media versus non black media, and all kinds of other topics.  A few snippets of the discussion made it into Jeff’s Asian Pop column for the San Francisco Chronicle.  But what stood out to Jeff the most upon viewing the film wasn’t racial politics.  It was conservatism, which he writes about a bit on his blog:
  • During the five-year runup to the movie’s ultimate release, conservative critics have regularly lambasted the project as an exercise in political correctness and knee-jerk, quota-driven multiculturalism. Well, the film’s here—and as much as I enjoyed watching it, I have a sneaking suspicion that far from being rejected by the Right, the movie’s going to end up as a GOP cause celebre.

    I don’t want to give away any spoilers, because this is a film that really should be watched through eyes sparkling with innocent wonder. But the way the movie’s key themes and plot points map out to Republican talking points is really pretty stunning.
  • Tiana is a bootstrapping entrepreneur who refuses to ask for charity, preferring to work two jobs to make her small-business dreams come true.
  • She castigates those who rely on others for welfare, and only changes her ruggedly individualist outlook when she’s pointedly reminded of the importance of having a family—and finding a suitable partner in life.
  • There’s an amazing Messiah-metaphor moment that the Christian Right will swoon over—a moment that I will not ruin by describing, for those of you who prefer to ignore literary/political subtext. (Let’s just say that for the savvy, the name given to a particular heavenly entity in the film should be a dog-whistle foreshadowing of what happens at the film’s climax.)
  • And here’s the kicker. The primary bad guy in the picture is a thin, jug-eared, light-skinned black man of mysterious origins who practices an “exotic” religion, manipulates reality to suit his ambitions, hides his true nature behind a charming and verbose exterior, and literally bleeds the elite to lift up the underclass. Furthermore, in the exercise of his villainy, he manages to run up a debt of cosmic proportions—a deficit he decides he can’t repay without, uh, stealing from the rich. Cue the horrific teabagger parodies now.
  • Pia dropped us an email to let us know that Allison Samuels was on Newsweek using The Princess and the Frog as a way to advocate that black women need to date interracially:
  • Since the 1960s, marriages between black men and white women have been steadily increasing—14 percent of all black men are now married outside the race. Yet only 4 percent of black women do the same. Why? Black women, for better or worse, have always seemed to maintain a loyalty to the ideal of the black family unit. That’s understandable, even noble, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when so many black men don’t feel the same way. Combined with the disturbing number of black men in prison, that means 47 percent of all African-American women today never marry. With those numbers, I say it’s time for many black women to start thinking, and acting, like Tiana.

    Oy. I’m not even touching that, especially after I saw what happened with the whole Zahara’s hair debacle.

    Finally, an incident that Elizabeth Hasselbeck (of all people, I know) shared on The View reminds us of just how far we are from a “post-racial” reality:

    Hasselbeck talked about the fact that her daughter’s favorite doll at the moment is Tiana, on The View yesterday. She said her daughter plays with the doll’s hair, sleeps with it and carries it around everywhere she goes. It’s nice that Hasselbeck and other non-Black parents like her don’t make a big deal out of it because essentially, children don’t see color—but she admitted that she got funny looks one day when she and her daughter plus Tiana ran errands in New York City.

    Hasselbeck said that some of the looks she got were pleasant and approving, but every now and then she got looks that were reproachful. She expressed that maybe she was thinking too hard about it but Whoopi Goldberg confirmed that she probably wasn’t (this is why I love Whoopi). Whoopi G. and also Sherri Shepherd told Hasselbeck in a nice way, “Welcome to our world.”