(Princess to frog: "You're SO not black enough...!")
Hurrah, I’ve found an organization I instantly dislike as much as I’ve grown to dislike the Disney company, over the last few decades.
It’s called ‘Black Voices’ and it’s taken umbrage at a new Disney movie, called, ‘The Princess and the Frog.’ Now, for those Web dwellers who tend not to notice what they ‘read’: Remember the first paragraph? Where I already mentioned I don’t like Disney?
Try to keep up, if you can.
So, the Company that brought us more sickeningly sweet tales than a Scottish chippie sells fried Mars bars on a Saturday night, is at it again, with yet another Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast type of story. It’s that princess and the frog tale but this time the heroes are black – or, at least, carrying vaguely more pigment that the good folks who hopped on board of the Mayflower, some time ago.
Two small snippets of critique from the afore-mentioned and subtly titled ‘Black Voices’ website:
“Black Voices, a Web site on AOL dedicated to African-American culture, faulted the prince’s relatively light skin color. Prince Naveen hails from the fictional land of Maldonia and is voiced by a Brazilian actor; Disney says that he is not white.
“Disney obviously doesn’t think a black man is worthy of the title of prince,” Angela Bronner Helm wrote March 19 on the site. “His hair and features are decidedly non-black. This has left many in the community shaking their head in befuddlement andeven rage.”
Others see insensitivity in the locale.
“Disney should be ashamed,” William Blackburn, a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, told London’s Daily Telegraph. “This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community.””
My first, hasty and ill-considered response upon reading this was, “Oh, fuck off! Get a life.”
As was my second and third reaction – and it’s still what I’m thinking, eleven paragraphs in, so we may assume I won’t change my mind much about this.
Anway, first, I would suggest that there are still more pressing race-related problems around than the relative ‘blackness’ of a fucking Disney cartoon character.
You know spun sugar. The Brits call it ‘candy floss’, Americans think of it as ‘cotton candy’ but, today, for this column’s purposes, I will run with the Australian term for it, which is ‘fairy floss.’
So, Disney is the fairy floss stall at art’s gloriously big and unruly carnival. It sells cheap crap that looks very nice indeed and can become quite addictive, if you start consuming it in serious quantities. Once upon a magic time, Disney made truly mind blowing movies, like ‘Snow White’ and ‘Fantasia’, but it is no longer in the mind blowing business and it hasn’t been for ages, now.
The Mouse Company deals in Fairytale Lite. Very, very lite. For Disney to even notice or acknowledge any colour that doesn’t have ‘WASP’ on the can is almost like Martel giving their Barbie dolls a slight dusting of pubic hair.
Critics like those sad ‘Black Voices’ folks might – no: would, no doubt – complain that this still left Barbie well short of a long overdue good fuck but, as Lincoln already noted on his blog, “You can’t please all of those stupid trolls all of the time.”
As with Martel, so with Disney: The revolution won’t start there – and everybody knows it. Beating the Mouse to score a few cheap ‘race awareness’ points is just silly. Worse, it’s also counter-productive. As I already stated, there are still enough real racial issues. Anyone who’s been following the latest brouhaha about Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, and who still thinks we’re now all living in some ‘post-racial’ society, has built him- or herself an own, highly peculiar version of Disney World.
So, when you have sites like ‘Black Voices’ going on about bloody Disney characters, the majority of well-meaning folks will simply roll their eyes and mutter something impolite under their breath. If we’re lucky, those folks will just forget about that bit of vulgar nonsense and go on to the next story. If we’re unlucky and you have too many of these types of silly grievance stories, people will, after a while, simply turn off, tune out and drop out of the whole conversation about race – and that could be dangerous.
Right, this column has grown long and unruly enough as it stands – or sprawls. I’d wanted to spend some time on that preposterous remark about Disney being wrong to use New Orleans as a setting for its latest movie. That using the city was, somehow, an insult to the memories of those communities most harmed by Katrina but I’ll just have to be very short about that, now.
It’s still utter bollocks, of course. Yes, Katrina and its aftermath were bad but this is just another desperate search for any stick to beat Disney with. I would dare ‘Black Voices’ to find any location in the USA where black communities haven’t had really bad shit happen to them. What with America’s still recent history of slavery and segregation and all, you can’t place a story anywhere on the continent without raising at least some chain-rattling ghosts - especially, if, like those good folks of ‘Black Voices’, you’re always looking for these ghosts anyway.
(’It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black’, indeed…)