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Why Has It Taken So Long For Disney To Create A Black Princess?

Illustration for article titled Why Has It Taken So Long For Disney To Create A Black Princess?

This week, the toys for the The Princess And The Frog were unveiled. Tony-award winning actress Anika Noni Rose will voice the main character, Tiana, Disney's first black princess.


The movie, which is due around Christmas this year, is set in the "jazz age" in New Orleans. Oprah is the voice of Tiana's mother. Anika Noni Rose says of Tiana: "Not only is she the first black princess, she's the first American princess. We've never had an American princess. So, the scope and the significance is larger than people even realize." Uh, Pocahontas was American, though, right?

Why Has It Taken So Long For Disney To Create A Black Princess?

In any case: Looking at this timeline of "Disney's multicultural royalty," something seems off. The "Princess" movies started in 1937 with Snow White, and the first non-white princess was Jasmine, in 1992. Then Pocahontas in 1995 and Mulan in 1998. More than ten years later, Princess Tiana, of The Princess And The Frog. Why did Disney have a Middle Eastern princess before a black princess? Or an Asian princess before a black princess? Sure, the Disney films tap into fairy tales, folklore and myths — most of which come from European sources — but there are plenty of myths and fables involving black people. American stories, tales from Nigeria, Egypt and South African/Zulu folk tales. Yoruba goddesses of love, Caribbean legends. Why has taken Disney 72 years to come up with a black princess? And will this movie — especially the toothless firefly character — insult, or uplift?

Disney Reveals New 'Princess & The Frog' Toy [Concrete Loop]
Meet Anika Noni Rose: Disney's First Black Princess [People]
Earlier: Why Is Disney's First Black Princess Such A Challenge?
The Princess And The Frog

Why Has It Taken So Long For Disney To Create A Black Princess?

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Phillipa Marlowe

I think the answer to why Disney has created Middle Eastern, Asian, and Native American princesses before a black one is simply because they can be exoticised and, to be honest, sexualised because of their 'oriental' and therefore doubly feminine nature.

It's no secret that though they represent what Disney/American culture considers 'ideal' in girls/women - smart enough to know when they are taken advantage of but not too smart to do much about it except marry someone rich - they also exhibit clearly the sexualised and mythologised feminine. So anyways, maybe Disney shied away from African American princesses because they didn't easily fit into either their ideal of the 'all American girl' or they couldn't be 'orientalised' and thereby sexualised and 'othered' to the extent that Mulan, Jasmine, and Pocahontas could.

That said, I haven't been waiting for another princess film since Mulan! I need more girly Disney songs to sing!