What if Your Prince is Not Black?

At my station in life, I would have to conjure up a reason to go see “The Princess and the Frog.” There are no girls in our house who are at the age to appreciate the movie, because my little sister is 16, and Baby is only 13 months. But I am curious about how Disney will treat this retelling of the classic fairy tale. Judging my the trailers and the clips, it looks like a fun and entertaining film.

There are many ways to look at this, starting with the interracial romance in the story. I hadn’t checked out all of the marketing for the movie before my friend from work told me that the prince turns out to be Creole (or something else, but definitely not black). I know that black love diehards will take that one personally, thinking that Hollywood just can’t give black couples a chance to shine. Dang! They will be heartily offended that black men were slighted and rejected in favor of some off-black dude who spent a huge chunk of his life as a slimy, swamp-running frog. No doubt they will ask whether the makers of this movie subconsciously are telling little black girls that they shouldn’t hope for a black prince of their very own.

I would hope that wouldn’t happen, but in this age of short news cycles, this movie has been on the marketing circuit long enough for every imaginable subtext to be sliced, diced and analyzed to death.

Although it’s hard for me to get seriously worked up about that sort of thing, I do think the movie reflects a vast change in American attitudes about our diverse ethnic heritage. New Orleans, with its music, food, and history, counts as our most culturally exotic city. Mixed marriages are more commonplace there and it figures that the makers of “The Princess and the Frog” would tap into that heritage to create a home-grown couple. That they did it for a major feature film with broad distribution all over the U.S. says that Americans are more willing to openly acknowledge and embrace our cultural past than they ever have been. Little white girls and little black girls who are friends can go and see this movie together and root for Tiana and the prince to beat all the odds and get together. And then they can proceed to argue over which one of them has the bigger crush in Prince Naveen and should be his girlfriend, or something sweetly juvenile like that.

Grown black women (especially here, at Latte Cafe) might see the mixed match as symbolic: it is possible to have everything in life, except the IBM, the ideal black man. You can be educated, accomplished, well-connected and even be a princess. But it’s a fact of life that you might not get to share all of this with a black man. Thousands upon thousands of black women everywhere from all walks of life are single. What if your match is from a different church, state, social class, culture, nation or race? If you cross paths with this man, are you going to turn away, looking past him like he’s a lower creature or will you slow down, give him the time of day and have a nice dinner or coffee or what have you? One thing that always amuses me, even these days, is how oblivious many black women are to the admirations of a guy who is not black. Not leering, admiring. Some of these guys will go so far as to try to draw you into a conversation, only to be overlooked. They’re white, not translucent! Pay attention. You might not end up with the carriage and royal title per se, but you could very well end up with more down-to-earth trappings of happiness, like a house, a baby and year after year of happy memories.

Well, maybe all this discussion is unnecessary. It is just a movie right? Well, no. Movies are products of our culture, reflections of our societies, and this one means something to a lot of people. These things should be discussed in open and healthy ways. But first see the movie for what it is, laugh-out-loud entertainment. I say take your daughter, niece, goddaughter or whomever, buy her a nice dinner with a milkshake, laugh at that ‘gator, tap your toes to the music and have a great night.

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