Philosophical Monday: The Princess & The Frog [Interracial Relationships]

princess-tiana-and-paa4781Is this the #1 trending topic among black bloggers are what?

I saw this movie yesterday and absolutely loved it. The songs weren’t quite as there as other Disney movies, and I wished that they had hired a Broadway team as opposed to Randy Newman, whose music I’ve always liked but never loved (save of course, “I Love LA,” which is one of my favorite songs of all time). But other than that, I was very happy with this movie and think I will be able to put up with Betty watching it again and again and again on DVD when she gets older. Maybe.

Now let’s move on to the heavy stuff: Race. Specifically, the IR romance between Tiana and the vaguely European prince. I’ve read so many black bloggers, saying things like, “I don’t have a problem with interracial relationships, but I wish the prince could have been black” or “Why couldn’t they have an African Prince?” or “I guess they had to make the prince non-black to sell it to middle America.” People bring up the recent spate of Will Smith films, in which he has a non-black love interest as proof that this is officially a catering trend.

Okay I’m going to try to talk about this w/o including too many spoilers. Though there’s one spoiler about something that happens within the first 10 minutes of the film, which you can pretty much see coming, b/c it’s a Disney film.

On the subject of Black Love, I adored Tiana’s parents. I loved the way that they treated her and interacted with her. I loved that they cooked together and that both of her parents put her to bed at night. And I loved that her father was a continuing influence on Tiana’s actions throughout the film, even after he dies. Now it’s a given that every modern Disney princess has to have a dead parent, but I think this is the best dead parent relationship that I’ve ever seen in a Disney film. And I think this depiction of Black Family, which we don’t see often enough these days is way more important than having a black prince. Seriously, people who complain about Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, should be hooraying for this depiction of poor blacks all over the place.

Now on the subject of the European prince not being black: I remember growing up and knowing that the only way any regular black man on most 80s series (Love Boat, Different Strokes, soap operas, et al) would get any action is if a black woman guest-starred or was added to the series cast. It didn’t matter her class or her personality or her personal taste, they would get together, presumably b/c they’re black and all black people have to do in order to hook up is be black and meet each other.

And even now when black people are depicted in relationships in movies or on TV it is still most often w/ other black people. Yet, the depiction of Will Smith with several non-black love interests and this Disney movie have drawn HUGE complaints, even though IR relationships or on the rise. My answer to that is come on!

Will Smith has been in plenty of films with other black women. In fact in his last couple of films, the only reason he wasn’t with a black woman was because they had died.

Also, if a Black Disney princess is way overdue, it might also be about time for animation to tackle an IR relationship, considering that the number of multi-racial children born in the USA has SOARED over the past few decades. There are literally millions of children around our nation that will appreciate this film on a personal level right now, and there will be even more in the future.

Also, I find it interesting that people consider it “pandering to Middle America” to depict an interracial relationship as opposed to a reflection of real societal changes. Look around you. There are more IR couples than any time in US history. Shouldn’t that be replicated in our entertainment? Newsflash: There have actually been cases of black women marrying European royalty before, and there’s even a IRL black princess now.

Last of all, if you seriously regard yourself as one of those people who has no problem with IR relationships, but states emphatically that you would have preferred for the Prince to be black, I would remind you that those of us in IR relationships are people, too. Let me repeat that: we’re not concepts, we’re living, breathing people. And when you say things like that, you insult us and insinuate that by celebrating our kind of relationship it is denigrating yours. And that’s the kind of insult that simply saying “I don’t have any problem with IR relationships” doesn’t erase. You’re an actual person, right? How would you feel if I said of Love Jones, “I have no problem with black relationships, but I wish they had made the poet white.” Yeah, I know, right!

I would go further, but this blog is already long and deeper argument would mean major spoilers .

But on one last note, I would like to say that I surprisingly approved of Tiana being a frog for most of the film — another hot point among bloggers. At one point in the movie I realized that it perfectly described my IR relationship with my husband. When we first started dating, the conversations just went on and on and we were stunned by how much we had in common despite looking nothing alike and coming from two very different backgrounds — I mean as different as could be. For example, we both have MFAs but my CMU experience was completely different from his CalArts experience. Our mothers held the same kind of job and even worked for the same national company at one point, but they were nothing alike as people or parents. We had even both travelled the world in totally opposite ways — me as a young bohemian student and teacher, he as a lighting roadie and programmer.

And this movie kind of nailed it for me. Despite all of our differences, we were both the same kind of frog on the inside. And that was enough for us to fall in love.