Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" Actually Contains a Powerful Message About Post-Katrina New Orleans

Disney's The Princess and the Frog opened last week. It showcased Disney's first African American princess, prompted significant merchandise sales, and provoked racial and feminist criticism.


As the mother of a 7-year-old daughter, I knew I'd have to see the film. I went to the theater prepared to deconstruct troubling racial images, which Disney has a history of producing, and distorted notions of womanhood, which Disney makes its fortune creating. But I was mostly delighted by the music, characters, and plot. I found neither race nor gender the driving concerns of this animated film.

I read The Princess and the Frog as a forceful and insightful allegory about the restoration of New Orleans.

Like many children's stories, this one is a morality tale. Parents read to our kids not only to encourage their literacy, but also to impart lessons about our shared cultural and social values: kindness, honesty, courage, thrift, hard work, normative heterosexual relationships that result in lifelong, happy, state-sanctioned marriage. The basics.

This particular morality tale conveys lessons about the city where it is set: New Orleans.

The Princess is Tiana. She grows up in a shotgun house, in a tight-knit, black community, the child of laboring parents. Together they dream of owning a restaurant. Tiana works night and day toward this goal.

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