Monday, 2 February 2015

Ice ice baby: the search for a princess who isn't white

Princesses are always white aren't they ? 
At last count we have watched Frozen approximately 78 times since my son got it for Christmas. Before that he'd watched it a few times and I'd taken him to see it at the cinema at least a year after it came out.

My friend asked me if we'd seen it and was very keen that I experience the ground breaking phenomenon. My boy hadn't been that keen to see it, but he was singing 'Let it go' so I figured it was worth a go. He didn't really care for it in the cinema - and neither did I if I'm honest. When asked I described it as being 'the usual Disney story about skinny white princesses.' I still think that. 

I do, however, love the songs and the fact that the women don't rely on a big, strong man to fix their problems. Having watched the movie many times - and plenty more to come I have no doubt - I am still less than impressed with the 'whiteness' of the movie.

Ok, I get it's set in Scandinavia so that does lend a pretty caucasian vibe to it. However, if even Fireman Sam can have a family that is dual heritage then why can't the worldwide corporation that is Disney at least try and acknowledge that not all people are white with big eyes and perfect skin.  

Entertainment for children is incredibly powerful and influential. Children from all over the planet love Disney. I made a vow when my son was born that he wouldn't watch Disney, yet he still found it and knew who the characters were. As an entity it can take hold of teeny, tiny brains quite easily and quickly. Witness how we now associate Winnie the Pooh with the Disney version now rather than the one featured in the books. The corporation has immense power so why not use that to convey some positive images to young minds instead of the same old, same old ?

Is she or isn't she Latina ?
It's been a long time coming but apparently the latest incarnation of Disney princess is called Elena and for a while there were internet rumours that she is latina. Considering the population of the US this is long overdue. Of course we had Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Pocahontas and let's be fair Mulan was also not traditional white either. However, in owning that this new female character might actually be non-white, Disney have backtracked faster than a guy looking over his shoulder reversing a sports car down an empty stretch of road. What harm does it do for them to have a character whose skin colour bears a resemblance to so many of the kids who watch her ? 

You see Disney is bit like the Woody Allen movie genre. In all the years he's been making movies set in New York he's never yet managed to depict anything other than purely white people's lives. More often than not - and understandably enough - Jewish and pretty much no black people at all. In New York. It's as if he has no concept of people who are unlike him, which considering his wife is not white is pretty insensitive. 

Disney can't get away with it so easily as they have a worldwide audience and it's younger and more vulnerable to imagery and suggestion that the older and long in the tooth ones like me.

Now a few people will have switched off from this earlier in the post. Oh, there she goes again, blathering on about racism. Yes. Yes I am.

And while the majority of books, TV shows, adverts, magazines and movies still show children who look nothing like my son I will keep going on. 


  1. To be fair, when Disney gave us a black heroine (in The Princess and the Frog) they got a lot of grief - from black people.

    1. Fear of criticism is no reason to not do it.
      All change comes from actions that are deemed wrong by someone.