My youngest daughter loves all things princess. For that matter, so did my older daughter at one time. Likely, she still does, as my wife’s still pretty partial to princesses as well. Fine, I like them too.
I’ve been hoping we would watch Disney’s “The Princess And The Frog” for some time now. The reality of a princess who isn’t as “white as snow” is appealing to me, you know, to challenge the assumptions we have about who a princess is. While conveniently avoiding having to navigate through the messages we send to young girls about the role of a princess, I was ready to help me and my family take a small step toward cultural proficiency through a Disney film.
Yeah, I know.
Now, Jasmin and Pocahontas and Mulan are certainly not your typical princesses; however, let’s be honest about a few things. First, does everyone really acknowledge them as “real” princesses? Second, they’re fairly “exotic” and safely not of “this” place. And, third, while they aren’t white, they certainly aren’t that dark; I mean, they certainly aren’t like Princess Tiana dark.
We loved the movie. It was fun, like all Disney movies are. It had some good messages, like all Disney movies do. Yes, it had some poor messages as well, like all Disney movies do, but it seemed to be serving my plan well: Indeed, all princesses do not look the same. And then, it happened.
“What did you think of the movie? Did you like it?”
“Yes. I liked that princess girl, but what happened to her?”
I knew who she meant. The blonde, white girl who initially pursued Prince Naveen. The one who didn’t get married to the prince at the end of the movie.
“Well, she’s fine, but she wasn’t the princess. Remember, Princess Tiana was the princess. The one who married Prince Naveen. Isn’t she pretty?”
“Yes, but, I’m not like her.”
I know we look for ourselves in things. It’s what connects us and makes us feel valued. Indeed, all princesses do not look the same, but we hope they look like us. How many young people find themselves when they look around, and, if they don’t, how many young people know where to turn for that feeling of being valued? A lot of eye rolling happens when there are conversations about who the faces are in media, and who our children see when they look toward those faces and beyond. Let’s stop pretending like it doesn’t matter.