Home > reflections on race > I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth

I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth

So something JUST occurred to me. Initially, I’d thought Prince Naveen being European (actually, Mediterranean… I googled him & he’s from “the land of Macedonia” which I assume to be the one in Greece?) could be a positive thing… reinforcing to little girls that black women are beautiful, period… not just beautiful to black men. But just now, as I was writing about something else, I made a connection I wish I hadn’t.

Could someone PLEASE teach the peeps at Disney (and Mattel) to use Google? PLEASE?!?!?!

In another blog about the denial of a marriage license to an interracial couple, there was a reference to Louisiana being the birthplace of placage. I thought, “Oh, yeah… I totally forgot about that. What a friggin’ moron” (regarding the JOP, not the blogger).

African women soon became the concubines of white male colonists, who were sometimes the younger sons of noblemen, military men, plantation owners, merchants and administrators. (There was a particular precedent they came to follow from Saint Domingue, where the French carefully chose their consorts, eventually producing such devastatingly exotic and beautiful women that they were called Les Sirènes or the sirens.) So it became acceptable behavior for a white man to take a slave as young as twelve as a lover. And possession over time had a way of changing the original premise of a relationship. When the women produced children, they were sometimes emancipated along with their children, and were allowed to assume the surnames of their fathers and lovers. When Creole men reached an age when they were expected to marry, some were content to keep their relationships with their placées. Thus, a wealthy white Creole man could possess not just one, but two (or more) families. One with a white woman to whom he was legally married, and the other with a light-skinned Creole woman of color, a placée, who was faithful to him until death. Their mixed-race children became the nucleus of the class of free people of color or gens de couleur in Louisiana, to be replenished with waves of refugees and immigrants from Haiti and other Francophone colonies. The descendants of the gens de couleur also constituted a part of what later became known as the black middle class in the United States; however, most Creoles of color deem themselves as neither White nor black and constitute a nation within a nation.

  1. October 24, 2009 at 7:59 AM

    When the news of this movie first broke, I felt a bit encouraged. Finally, Disney had created a movie with a black character at its center. I thought Disney was making a bold move. However, as additional news of this movie leaked out, I realized that though Disney had taken a few steps forward, in the same instance the studio took more than a few black.

    How well would a black love story play before a general audience? A black love story would go against the notion of black pathologically when it comes to love and marriage that is so prevalent in the cultural imagination of the nation. I don’t think it would be believable to a majority of the audience at which it is aimed. And this is not meant as an insult or any other negative intent, but we must ask ourselves the question, “How many white parents would take their children to see a love story featuring black characters?”

    SO, enter the exotic. Exotic characters have always played well in Disney films.

    • October 29, 2009 at 6:54 PM

      You are more optimistic than I am. I felt sinking dread in my stomach…

  2. October 24, 2009 at 10:17 PM

    That’s how my paternal family came into being.
    Back in 1736, some dude came from Etienne to Church Point, La. and acquired a Black family to go along with his white one.
    Upon his death – he left the good farming land to his white family and the low lands to the Black (now free) family.
    Both families were separated by only a eponymous street, but the lowlands had oil.
    As with most Black families of this circumstance – some of their land was set aside for the lacal Black Catholic Church and the local school. (Which further solidified their place within the Black middle-class.)

    So, I’m not really offended by the movie – it seems fairly true to life.

    • October 29, 2009 at 6:59 PM

      I wonder how awkward that was for the women of the family(ies). But as you pointed out, it worked out well for yours 🙂

      But Disney has never cared about being true to life, and as Max and Becky expressed, this was to appease the “majority” audience… and I think that’s what bugs me.

  3. October 26, 2009 at 10:03 AM

    I have thought about this post all weekend long. I have a list of disappointments with this movie (w/o having seen it yet!), but I am not going to take issue with the interracial aspect of it by thinking placage. First of all, Prince Naveen doesn’t fit the type. He is not a white plantation owner looking for an exotic concubine/extended family. Also, correct me if I am wrong, but there are some pretty dark Mediterranean people, so I don’t find it odd that he would be attracted to Tianna; and she’s not exactly Nubian. Not to mention a LONG historical precedent of Royalty marrying people from all over the place, in order to establish treaties, etc. Interracial royal marriages are are old as humanity.

    Tianna is a frog for a lot of the movie (something I did/do have an issue with) and so is he. In fact, the better part of the movie, there is no race issue for the characters to deal with because they are both green, so that’s not even part of the equation. The time period is also wrong. This is post-slavery and Tianna is already a free woman. Prince Naveen clearly marries her outright, too. This is not a situation where he is simply keeping house with a concubine. He loves HER. I do see it as a situation where a man sees a black woman as beautiful and desirable…but in this case more about who she is…because like I said, she is a frog for a good chunk of the film.

    Now, I will agree with Max that Disney played it this way for the white audience. They wanted more viewers, so they went “exotic” with an interracial coupling that would be more appealing than two African Americans. That is what is more troubling to me, and an addition to my laundry list of complaints, or at least something to chew on more. However, being one of the only times I can think of where an IR couple is being portrayed in animation for children, and in light of what just happened in LA, I think I will welcome it, too. We were just talking about marriage licenses and the “last racial taboo” being interracial couplings. I find it hard to talk out of one side of my mouth about wanting to see more IR couples and bi/multiracial families portrayed in the media, yet condemning Disney for doing it at the same time.

    Princess Tianna has already landed at my house in the form of birthday gifts for Zoey. A book and pajamas so far. The girls are begging to see the film, too.

    • October 26, 2009 at 6:27 PM

      I have more to say later (do I say that a LOT lately or what?) but real quick… I was real mad at louisiana when I wrote this. I need to refer to that flow chart for blogging about racist shit more often…

    • October 29, 2009 at 8:39 PM

      I’m not looking at it as placage either, but I still think there is a subtle undertone. The story is past the time frame that placage was common, but the sexual exploitation of black women didn’t end with slavery or placage. Reading over this and thinking on it a little deeper, I definitely agree with the comments you and Max made… the couple is interracial to make it more palatable to a white audience. And I think that’s the reason they’re frogs for most of the movie… to take “race” out of it.

      My girls are talking abotu the movie too… they can’t wait for it. And I have a feeling that’s how I’ll be spending my birhtday, seeing as that’s when it opens. I am trying to keep an open mind, because I did see some things about the movie that I did like in a more detailed trailer than I’ve seen on TV. I really like what I saw of the relationship Tianna has with her father in the movie, and that he emphasised hard work to make dreams become reality.

      As much as I want there to be interracial couples portrayed positively in children’s media (hell, any media), if I had to choose, I’d rather see black families portrayed. And that might sound funny coming from my mouth, but I am tired of the stereotype that good black men trade up for white women and I’m tired of hearing black men say they don’t date black women. I’m just tired of overlooking 10 negatives for every positive.

      Of course I can’t find the damn blog in my feed reader now, but I was reading something earlier this week or last week… I think the blogger was talking about Tyler Perry movies, and commented something to the effect that we (LOL there I go with the we again) are so desperately thirsty for black representation in the media that we’ll drink sand… I instantly thought of this movie.

      • Becky
        October 30, 2009 at 3:59 AM

        Damn. Does that mean I am not supposed to love Tyler Perry movies now? WTF!


        I would not say that we are “drinking the sand” (in regard to TP movies/shows, but I know some folks don’t like him), but he does have the monopoly on a market that *is* desperate for media. I think the “powers that be” are waking up to an untapped market. I do feel the winds of change.

        I think there is more in him than what he has shown so far, but he had to create a name for himself and prove he could deliver the money. I am hoping that now that he is becoming an established money-maker, that he will produce some new things and take some criticisms to heart.

        As for Tianna, I am going to hold any further judgments for the actual movie. I have to hope that Anika and Oprah would not be part of a film that is THAT bad, but we’ll see.

    • October 31, 2009 at 2:32 AM

      girl, you go on & love who you wanna 😉

      Do you know what popped into my head today? Back on kidventures when Carla and I were ranting about Ariel giving up her voice for a man… you hadn’t had the girls yet… and you told us our critique sounded like feminism run amuck… it made me giggle to think about it now.

  4. Becky
    October 31, 2009 at 9:01 AM

    Girl, I was also like 21 or 22. I had a LOT of growing up to do. LOL!

    Just for further giggles, I have that discussion with my girls all the time now, and they pretty much won’t even watch “The Little Mermaid” anymore without making that comment about how “STOOOOOPID” she is for giving up her talent. 😉

    But, we also talk about making sacrifices for Love, and while Ariel didn’t really know Eric at the time she gave up her voice, making sacrifices for love is a good thing. But knowing when you are giving up too much is just as important, too.

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