Friday, June 5, 2009

New Orleans Too Sad for Disney?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 3:03 PM

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William Blackburn, a former columnist for the Charlotte Observer, doesn’t think much of Disney’s choice of setting in the not-yet-released animated movie, “The Princess and the Frog.” The film is set in1920s New Orleans and tells the story of Princess Tiana, the entertainment company’s first African American princess, and how she mistakenly turns herself into a frog. Faced with a lifetime of lily pads and eating flies (, or worse; frog legs are delicious), she sets out to find a cure along with her pals, an alligator and a Cajun firefly.

     Some critics have charged that the movie, which will be released in December, promotes racial stereotyping and that Princess Tiana’s skin color is too light. Blackburn, however,  reserves some of his vitriol for the New Orleans backdrop, telling the London Telegraph, “For one, this princess' story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community.” 

     I’m no Disney apologist, I’ve never even been to Disney World, but isn’t this going too far? Blackburn is absolutely correct: our city and our people did experience a devastating tragedy and we will never forget what happened on those horrific days in late August 2005 and the following months and years. But, Mr. Blackburn, despite New Orleans’ continuing societal ills — extreme poverty, racism and a short supply of decent public schools, to name just a few — this city can be and has long been a place of beauty. Yes, the federal flood has forever changed New Orleans, but we have moved forward and our city shouldn’t only be recalled in sadness, or known simply as a place of tragedy.    

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