Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tiana and Charlotte - Princess Evolution

To anyone who has seen Cinderella 2 and Cinderella 3, you'd have to agree with me onseveral things:
  • Cinderella 2 was only good the last 20 minutes.
  • Cinderella 3 was really good
  • It was refreshing to see a friendship develop between a Disney Princess and another Female character. 
Of course I'm talking about Cinderella and the friendship that developed between her and her stepsister Anastasia, the red headed sister, in the sequels, who we all know wasn't very nice to Cinderella in the original film.
Disney Studios have had female to female relationships in the past. There was Pocahontas and her friend Nakoma, and Aurora and her fairy guardians, but they were always under developed.
Princess and the Frog introduces a new female to female relationship with Tiana and Charlotte. The very first shot of our main character in the movie, Tiana, is a shot of both her and Charlotte, establishing very early on in the story that Tiana and Charlotte's fate's are going to be intertwined, especially with their different view points on fairy tale romances... and this is all before the opening titles are shown.
The friendship between these two women is very interesting, especially in this day and age where fairy tales are starting to fade as the years go on by. One just has to take a look at Dreamwork's Shrek to see how cynical we have gotten with these fairy tales.
In Princess and the Frog, we have Tiana, who is very cynical about fairy tale romance. This girl just wants to make her dreams come true, but she won't wait for a prince to make it happen for her, she's going to work hard at it. And work hard at it she does as she juggles two jobs.
Charlotte believes very much in fairy tale romance. She wishes on stars to make her dreams come true and one cannot doubt that they usually do come true for her.
With these two extremes, one would also think that these two women would would be at each other's throats, because after all, doesn't every struggling princess need a stepsister to balance her out?
But alas, we do not get a villain for our hero in Charlotte. Charlotte is a very loyal friend to Tiana and Tiana is established as rock for Charlotte to lean on when things get too crazy in the socialite world she resides in. A world of money and privilege. I have no doubt that Charlotte's world is full of phonies and backs stabbers and her only real friend is Tiana who keeps things real for her and helps her see things in a different perspective. Tiana can also be seen learning from Charlotte as well. Without Charlotte's kind heart and optimism, I don't think Tiana could have ever believed that she could rise above her social status and buy her own restaurant.
Charlotte was created to show what audiences expect a stereotypical princess to be like and Tiana was created to show what it really means to be a princess. While Charlotte in the movie is called a princess mainly because her dad is the king of Mardi Gras, she has all the qualities of a Disney princess with the exception of having a "want song." She's kind, she's sweet, she's pink, she wears big ole dresses, and she wants her prince, and she gets him by wishing on a star. That's a Disney Princess. In fact, if Charlotte met Naveeen as a Frog before Tiana did, the movie would've ended right then and there.
Tiana is not what audiences expect in a princess, and it's confusing. She's poor and has to work, like Cinderella; she doesn't want a guy to just save her, like Belle; she's an oddball, like Ariel AND Belle; she has a want song, "Almost There"; and she's only a princess at the end of the movie, like Cinderella and Belle. Throughout the process of making this film, Disney kept getting complaints about Tiana. She was not a princess in their eyes because she had  a job and she's a frog for most of the movie. Audiences nowadays don't want their princess to have depth or struggle it seems. But Tiana is a princess, in the same sense that Charlotte is a princess, and this is before either of them get the title. Both of these women are strong, caring, loving and heroic in their right. Anyone who can't see Charlotte kissing Naveen as a frog as a selfless act has missed the point of the movie. And Tiana kissing Naveen as a frog turning him into a prince had nothing to do with marriage. It was love baby, and love over everything else really makes you a princess.
Tiana and Charlotte now join the other female friendships that Disney has created, and I hope they develop more of these kinds of relationships for young girls to view. Women are a very powerful sex, especially when they stick together.


  1. damn Ed. You consistently surprise and endear with your insight into the psychology of these characters. I hadn't realized the parallels between stories before now.

  2. Great review Ed! It was very interesting and an interesting take on the development of that relationship. I think the movie as a whole was a comment on society and how certain people are expected to work because of there color while other are able to relax, but all are in pursuit of a dream. For Tiana, she sees the example of both her parents working hard as the path to your goal while Charlotte road is paved with gold. Its simply an example of society placing us in roles for acceptable behavior. I'm not sure of the correctness of the era and that Charlottes father would allow her to play with Tiana and develop that friendship. It doesn't address the cattiness of female nature and jealousy that naturally should have formed between the two since they grew up so close together and had such different lifestyles. I think Disney's decision to make Charlotte white and develop a friendship between them was an interesting one. It gives the story that Disney aspect of fantasy and what if. I love that even after Tiana became a princess she worked because that was her passion and dream. My only complaint would be Tianas wardrobe. Her princess coronation dress (the one she's advertised wearing) is only in the movie for 30 seconds. All of her other dresses were just kinda ok... what's up with that? all of the other princesses have there clear signature princess dress which is also established as there cross over gown in the movie almost like a right of passage Tianas transition happened differently. Was it because of race or simply the way the story line turned? Over all i loved the movie and the attempt to allow a more diverse princess club but i cant help but wonder what if those roles were reversed, what if part of Tianas dream included a man and not just work, and what if the relationship between Charlotte and Tiana was negative- would there have been more drama, twist, and turns in the story?

  3. OMG! These reviews are fantasticles. You make me want to go out and actually watch movies. You should get your own column.

  4. I'm working on it Jimmy boy ;-)

  5. Why does every Disney heroine have to end up as a princess? Why not give her a "happily ever after" without her becoming a princess?

  6. Thanks for replying to this old post. I really appreciate it.

    Not entirely true about all Disney Heroines ending up as princesses. Pocahontas for sure looked at her options before opting not to go with her main man. Mulan, Esmeralda, Alice and even Wendy seemed to not want or need a man.


Please leave some comments