Will Sheppard: Blackness Within the Princess and the Frog

Disney’s 2009 The Princess and the Frog, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, featured a bunch of hollywoods stars including, Anika Rose, Keith David, Bruno Campos, and Jenifer Lewis along with many others. The film provides plenty of New Orleans themed music along with choreography to go along with it. This was Disney’s first film to feature a black princess and for the most part, it did not disappoint. The main negative to this film would be that it is missing the appeal, that is the appeal to young black girls. Other princess films appeal to young white girls and give the sense of that magic, but this film doesn’t necessarily do that in my opinion because of the fact that she was a frog for a majority of the movie. Most people were expecting to see the Princess and the Frog, but they got two frogs instead. It was a different twist on the movie, but it didn’t ruin the movie. 

We begin the film with Tiana and her friend Charlotte being read a story about the princess and the frog. They are in Charlotte’s mansion of a home because Tiana’s mother is a dressmaker for the family. While reading the fairytale we see two different perspectives from both children. With the young, rich white girl Charlotte, we see her completely invested and taken away by the story as she dreams of this. With Tiana, we see her disgusted by the kissing of the frog and much less interested in the whole concept of being a princess in the first place. One thing that the creators put in place here is a cultural difference. Being half black and half white, I feel as if I am obligated to say in the least offensive way possible that Charlotte being intrigued by kissing the frog is a whiter thing than it is black. We then go to the next scene and see the living situation of Tiana. She lives with her mom and dad in a small house in a residentially black and poorer area of New Orleans. She and her father have dreams of one day opening up their own restaurant and creating a better life for themselves. So, the viewer has shifted fro seeing a white family with everything they could ever ask for, to a black family who is just trying to get by and that has bigger hopes and aspirations. Already it’s been 10 minutes into the film and we’ve already seen racial and cultural differences.  

As we approach the first song of the film, we see Tiana working hard at two jobs and saving up enough money to get her restaurant. We learn of her father no longer being alive, which is a little stereotypical to me, but she is still working to accomplish the dream they both had. Tiana and her mother go inside the beat up old property of where her restaurant would be and then she breaks out into her first song of the film. The song “Almost There” has a big impact and basically tells her story. It is a song about how she has no time for other fun activities because she has to keep grinding because she is almost there and almost has what she’s been dreaming of since she was a kid. The line in the song that basically summed up her journey and her attitude was, “There’s been trials and tribulations. I know I’ve had my share, but I’ve climbed the mountain and crossed the river and I’m almost there.” It explains that she has been through a lot, but she has not given up and she is so close. I think this mindset can be related to a lot of black women in the world today. Black women have the same attitude of not giving up and going through rough patches just to get what they want. Being a black woman, they already have it rough because they are a minority racially and they are a woman, so there are multiple barriers to break, which is what Tiana is trying to do. The choreography of this scene is a cartoon version of an already cartoon movie, where it features her restaurant all done up how she dreamed of. 

Fast forward a few minutes and then Prince Naveen is finally arriving in New Orleans in search of a wife. Not too long after his arrival he and his butler are persuaded by Dr. Facilier to see into their futures, but it comes with a price. The price is that the butler got turned into the prince, and the prince got turned into a frog. The song features an African, voodoo type of vibe. We see a variety of bright neon colors, and other african features. The frog prince finally meets Tiana where he finally convinces her to kiss him and she ends up turning into a frog as well. Together they go through a journey to try to get changed back into humans. They meet an alligator named Louis and a cajun firefly named Ray. For the next 45 minutes or so, we are in the bayou of Louisiana and we sit through multiple different songs by all different characters. All of the songs have one thing in common, and that is the moral of the song. All these songs have meaning in them. The song that probably has the most meaning in it is the song by Mama Odie, “Dig A Little Deeper.” It is a song about how Tiana and Naveen need to find out what they really need and now just what they want. This is going to help solve all their problems in life. The moral of the song was that if they find out what they really need in their life, then it is gonna truly lead to their happiness. Since there are no huge dance numbers in this movie, the choreography is a little different. They use butterflies and fireflies to add different effects and they use a lot of bright colors to bring the song alive. In the end of the film, they both figure out that they need each other and that’s it and it turns them back into their human forms. Tiana gets her restaurant and husband, and they all live happily ever after, the end. 

The creators of the songs did a good job to add African American elements to the music. There is a very southern, just black feel to the songs. The cast is mainly full of black people, and black singers at that. So it brings a different feel to the whole movie. The songs are sung with soul and a certain richness. That is what makes this princess movie different from all the rest. It is relatable to the black community and it carries the richness of the black community. I still believe that Disney could have done better with the whole black princess aspect and they could have given her that black girl magic. Overall it was a solid film that introduced the world to its first black Disney princess, and there were a lot of elements that brought out the core of the black community.

Stereotypes Within The Prom

Will Sheppard

Ryan Murphy’s version of The Prom, which is basically hidden in the depths of Netflix, is an attempt at taking down issues of the LGBTQ community. This becomes problematic because of the gender and sexuality stereotypes within, as they ultimately took over the goal as a whole. We start off the musical In New York, where we meet: Dee Dee Allen, Trent Oliver, Angie Dickson, and Barry Glickman singing in unison about how they are going to clear their names by doing a good deed basically. We then are in Edgewater, Indiana where prom for the local high school has been cancelled becasue of a single homosexual student. Indiana is portrayed within the musical as the most homosexual state possible. We then meet Emma, one of the main characters, who is being bullied and harassed for being homosexual. We then go through many songs and choreographed dances where the big 4 go through the efforts of getting prom back and creating a more accepting town. There are ups and downs and we learn more and more about each character. In the end Emma ends up getting her prom and relationships were formed that had been ready for formation. Throughout the two plus hours of musical time, there were a variety of issues. Even though The Prom intended to take down LGTBQ issues, there were stereotypes within the character Barry Glickman specifically which distracted us from the overall message. 

To start off, Barry Glickman, portrayed by James Corden, was shown as what most would consider a stereotypical gay person. He was a little bit on the extra side, used excessive hand gestures and movements of his body, loved to shop, said stereotypical expressions and phrases, and was more feminine, especially with his wardrobe choices. We notice in his dress the more feminine touch it has to it with the vibrant colors and the scarfs he wears all the time. When it comes time to get a dress for Emma, he automatically, without hesitation assumes the role of going shopping at the mall with her. It is almost like because he is gay, he must have good fashion sense and he has to be the one to go shopping. I also feel like Corden when he took the role of being a gay man, didnt know how to portray a gay man being that he is straight, so he went on what he knows. That being mainly stereotypes. He most likely feels as if he is doing a good job playing a gay man when really he is almost doing the opposite. 

One thing that confused me is the casting selection. James Corden is a straight man who was casted and selected to play the role of a gay man. Meanwhile, we have Andrew Rannells, who is actually a gay man outside of the musical, but he is casted and selected to play a straight man. I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t flip the roles of the two so that the characterization would flow more smoothly. Had Corden played as the straight man, then we more than likely wouldnt have seen a stereotypical gay on screen. If they had chosen Andrew Rannalls then the character Barry’s gayness wouldn’t have seemed so forced. The only reasoning I can think about that makes sense to this decision making is that it was purposely done. This might have been done purposely to give straight people a chance to interact, because it leans into all types of stereotypes to make the characters seem more understandable. I think it makes the viewer look at the characters and really get to understand them, and realize why they’re doing the things they are doing. Such as why Corden is acting the way he is acting. 

I feel as if there is an obvious storyline and plot issue as well. We have a gay girl, Emma, and she is being discriminated against by her peers and community, and of course the one leading the charge against her is her secret girlfriend, Alyssa’s,  mother. The mother, Mrs. Greene, is the PTA leader and the main one trying to keep Emma away from everyone else and she is the main one being discriminatory against her. Of course her daughter would happen to be gay as well and she had no idea. Alyssa and Emma go through their struggles of Alyssa being scared to come out and then she finally does at the end and Mrs. Greene storms off in disappointment and shock. Only to come back and embrace her daughter and change her views. It is a pretty boring and obvious plot, kind of like a high school kid was given an assignment to write a plot to a musical.  

Then we have Principle Hawkins’ physically representing a masculine stereotype, but his actions and behaviors go against these stereotypes. We see him dress in only suits and  he is the sole authority of the school. He also wears a beard on his face. We witness him almost fangirl when he first gets to meet Dee Dee Allen. When they talk she is surprised to find out how big of a fan of musical theatre is, as the majority of her support comes from gay men. She refers to him as not fitting the demographic. Principal Hawkins is not afraid to admit his love for Broadway and theatre, which you wouldn’t think based on his physical appearance. He sings in song later in the musical to Dee Dee where he expresses what musical theatre means to him, and we see a different side to a straight male character that normally does not show up within any other film. 

The Prom has a plethora of different representations of gender roles and typical character stereotypes. Although I believe actors such as Corden may have taken the role too far from a stereotypical point of view, I also believe that it helped me understand the character more. His overdoing helped me to know more about his character. There are scenes and characterization that could have been done way better, yes, but these gender stereotypes were also challenged. We can see this with Principle Hawkins’ and how his physical appearance does not necessarily match the person he is within. I think there are changes in the narrative that are good for the musical and that give the viewer a different feel when watching.