Monday, April 16, 2007

Disney Princess



I suppose a fair compromise would be to go ahead with the celebration but hold back on the sparklers and pink frosted cake.

A pseudo-celebration, of sorts.

See, I’m over the moon about the muckety mucks at Disney finally creating a Black princess! Sure, it may seem silly for a grown woman to spontaneously spin cartwheels in high heels over a cartoon character. But this is huge! This is the type of thing us little folks—the real people—rely on for tracking our actual progress. We’ve learned not to include the impotent and poorly-negotiated “firsts” like Janice Rogers Brown and Condoleeza Rice in our headcount. They don’t speak for us, the little people. Our hope, instead, is embedded in the organic superstardom of gay talk show hosts, plus-sized super models, Hispanic cabinet members, Olympic amputees and sexy senior citizens.

A Black Disney princess is, indeed, worthy of adult cartwheels.

The first Disney princess, Snow White, debuted in 1937. There were four more regal teens (Aurora, Cinderella, Belle and Ariel) before Disney’s first diva of color arrived in 1992. This Arabian royalty, Jasmine, was followed by Native American heroine, Pochahontas, and then a Chinese warrior princess named Mulan. Seventy-two years after Snow White, Disney will add a Black princess named Maddy to its regal lineage in 2009.

Over the moon, I say … but I still can’t keep the small crystals of criticism from shaping themselves in my mind. Like, really, does she have to be a domestic for a rich white family? I just figure that if you can build a Magic Kingdom, you should be able to dream up something more original than a Black maid. Also, why manufacture a New Orleans-based storyline instead of regaling the children with a real princess tale from the actual history pages of Cush, Brighton or Angola? And why does her name have to be Maddy? I understand the Disney folks have already announced a name change to Tiana. Okay. But why does her prince charming have to be White? Specifically, the voice casting call reportedly calls for a “gregarious, fun-loving European prince … a young Cary Grant.”

Tiana can’t get rescued by a brotha named Deonte?

Apparently not. Apparently, Disney has done its homework and discovered that its primary audience –White families across the nation—will be less inclined to pony up at the box office if the storyline is based on black-on-black love, even the animated kind. Sad, right? And this is the other column where little folks try and keep track of how much the world doesn’t pay attention. Incomparable treasures like Suzan-Lori Parks, Don Cheadle, Dr. Louis Gates Jr. and Etta James fail to seize national attention like their crude and less talented cousins (chose any stage play featuring Melba Moore, any rap song played on any radio station or any urban novel where the main character spends 300 pages hustling dope or extolling “thug love). This is where the battle for diversity is best waged, and ultimately won: where we live. Where we spend our money. Where we direct our children’s attention and fantasies. Where our lives are wedged together with only an armrest/cup holder and a bucket of popcorn to separate us.

So, put on your tiara and get up on that soapbox. A princess is coming! And we gotta spread the news about the celebration we’re almost ready to have!