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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Underused Disney Princess



My daughter just turned four last week and she received a birthday card with a bunch of the Disney Princesses. It was one of those where you punch them out and play dress up with them.

As I was helping her cut them out I came across her, but I couldn't remember her name, honestly I'm not sure I ever knew it. Some of you may know her from The Princess and the Frog.

In my defense, this movie came out in 2009, a year before I became a dad. Then again, I recognize plenty of Disney characters from before then. So, what does this say about me or what does it say about her popularity, or Disney's use of this character.

Many of the other Disney Princesses (there are 11, who knew?) pop up in Sofia the First or their movies get rerun on the Disney channel or Disney Junior. However I can't recall seeing Tiana anywhere. I'm sure she's around, they probably sell her doll in the Disney store or she's on the Disney website.

Anyway, this isn't a post about how minorities are underrepresented in media, or in this case, the World of Disney. I mean, they are, but I guess they're doing a better job. Although it did take until the year 2009 for them to create an African-American Princess and there still isn't a Latina one. (There's a rumor/theory that Sofia is Latina but Disney back peddled/denied it - First Latina Princess isn't Latina)

Let's see, first let's take a look at the current roster of Princesses and whether or not I recognized them.
Mulan - yes
Snow White - yes
Tiana - no
Cinderella - yes
Belle - yes
Merida - yes
Rapunzel - yes
Ariel - yes
Aurora - no (I guessed Sleeping Beauty, but a miss is a miss)
Jasmine- yes
Pocahontas - yes

9 out of 11, not bad. So why did I recognize them? Some are pretty obvious, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Belle, and I guess Aurora should be pretty recognizable and iconic. Ariel, Mulan, Jasmine and Pocahontas are kind of the ones I grew up with, if that makes any sense. I don't know. Merida got a lot of press and she's also a redhead. One of my daughters is a redhead so she's gotten a few of her toys.

Now, let's break down the minorities represented by the Disney Princesses. 4 out of 10? Mulan, Tiana, Jasmine, and Pocahontas. I've come across arguments that Disney is a global company, so technically Mulan is the only non-minority, but I imagine most of Disney's revenue comes from the US and the screenplays and films are made here, etc.

Again, I am not trying to get people riled up, just writing a post based on an observation I made. Disney has a lot of great content, I don't have to worry about my kids watching Disney Jr. (We still may have made the mistake of letting my oldest watch the Fox and the Hound too early, but that's a whole other issue) and they occasionally learn some good lessons.

Thankfully, they've also got Doc McStuffins (I'd definitely recognize her by the way) because without her, my kids appointments with the doctor would definitely not be as enjoyable.

That being said, it's just something to think about, and something Disney should think about as well. I have one daughter that has two Princesses she looks like, especially Merida, red curls and all.

My other one thinks she looks like Pocahontas, but she could pass for Snow White and/or Jasmine, whatever. I can't imagine being a young black girl before 2009, or for that matter a parent of one. What if they asked me why none of the Princesses looked like her?

So why didn't I recognize Tiana? Not popular enough? Is it because I never watched The Princess and the Frog? Just haven't been exposed enough to that character? I'm pretty sure it's a combination of these things and I hope it speaks more about Disney than it does about me.