kailey’s review published on Letterboxd:
for film club secret cinema
they really gonna have the hottest disney prince spend most of the movie as a frog, huh.
look, when i was four years old, my answer to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was without-fail "a princess!" (i wore a princess dress to pre-school like everyday). i can't say that mindset ever went away completely. disney films like this are always going to be a weak-spot for me. and this is freaking charming! the ever-present trumpet playing, the new orleans setting, the genuinely likable and well-rounded characters. does anyone have an explanation for why this has been largely forgotten and frozen is now a ever-present juggernaut set to gobble anything in its path????
i think it has a genuinely mature message too. hard work is great, but everyone needs to have some fun. (and fun is great but sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and make something of yourself, depending on which protagonist's character arc we're talking about). the bottom line is that you can't be so focused on your goals that you lose your life along the way. and it's really all about balance! tiana gets her restaurant and her character development, while the love stuff is secondary. she's really one of the more reactive characters in the disney canon, rather than just passively accepting what the plot throws at her. her goals never change, they just get bigger and more expansive.
obviously, the big thing about the princess and the frog is that tiana is the first African-American princess. does disney handle this perfectly? no. am i totally thrilled with how lottie's privilege is never really examined or some of the stereotypes about things like voodoo? no. does it leave a bad taste in my mouth that disney's first African-American prince and princess spend so much time as animals? yeah, sort of. do i think disney was ever going to have anything incisive to say about a black woman's experience in 1920s new orleans that extends beyond a fairy-tale adventure? also no, they're a corporation whose bottom line is to make money.
HOWEVER, i do appreciate how the film takes pains to portray how much African-American influence created the culture of New Orleans. things like jazz music, gumbo, and so on are lingered on really lovingly. i also think that disney does acknowledge in its own quiet way that these things called "racism" and "systematic poverty" may have in fact affected tiana's life without necessarily ever making a point of it. (the most prominent example being the film's opening sequence where we see tiana and her mom leave lottie's mansion, before heading home to a series of small, run-down houses). at the end of the day, as a white person, my opinion on this is not the one that matters too. i can only speak from my perspective, which is extremely limited and fairly unimportant.
and bah! critical examination of media is always crucial but i really did enjoy this and i definitely sniffled a little bit about ray and evangeline and i most certainly cheered at the end. it's one of the last genuinely affecting and charming princess movies that disney has had, i think. that alone is worth celebrating.