Since Walt Disney released Snow White, young WOC have been waiting for our turn to play the princess role. I was very excited when I learned via Ebony Intuition that we were finally going to be represented, but had I thought about Disney's history when it comes to POC, my enthusiasm might not have been so joyful.
It seems that when they first thought of creating a black princess they decided that the most appropriate job for her was as a maid for a white woman. Yes you read that right. Not only was she to be a maid, they named her Maddy; is that a little to close to mammy for anyone else? Why halt the social construction there though..they gave her a voodoo fairy godmother, and a white male as a love interest. If this is their idea of a black princess, thanks but no thanks.
Whoever came up with the original story board for "our princess" needs a class in African American studies. That's exactly what children need to see, a black woman slaving away for a white woman, while she is lusting after a white man. How much more slave revival can they get? The only stereotype they missed is the angry black woman, but I am sure that if they could have found a way to squeeze that in they would have. Can we really expect better from a company whose first feature length film was Snow White, or that created and popularized the following images?
It seems Disney has a history of displaying racial social constructions in their movies, so why should the first "black princess" be immune?
Racism is just a part of Disney productions and so it took criticism from outsiders for Maddy to be reconstructed. According to Arifa Akbar of The Independent, "the heroine has been recast as Tiana, a 19-year-old in a country that has never had a monarchy. She is now slated to live "happily ever after" with a handsome fellow who is not black – with leaks suggesting that he will be of Middle Eastern heritage and called Naveen."
African, and African American history is so rich in folklore there was never a need to resort to this kind of patented racism in the first place. There are plenty of women that they could have chosen to model this character after that would have inspired young girls to re-envision black womanhood. We don't need yet another image telling us that we are unequal and less than. It might be fun for Disney to play up the licentious whore, and mammy paradigm but for those of us that must live with this stereotype it greatly effects our cultural self esteem and our life path. I will go and see this "historic movie", but I will go with the understanding that though the character will be black, she will probably not represent anything that I have come to understand about the beauty, strength and love of black womanhood.