Princess and the Frog
This is a movie filled with cultural differences and cultural bias. Throughout this paper, one will read about cultural identity and cultural bias found within the movie. In addition to cultural identity and cultural bias, the concept of cultural patterns and what types of cultural patterns that are exhibited in the film will also be discussed. Cultural Identity Generating a cultural identity for animated characters on the silver screen is not a simple task. Screenplay writers must address the many layers that form an individual’s cultural identity and seamlessly integrate those pieces into the personality of the imagined character.
A successful animated character is one that the audience relates to on a personal level. The character has realistic, relatable personality traits yet keeps the element of fantasy and surrealism that audience members expect from an animated movie. This expectation is increased many times over when the animated film bears the Disney logo. In the film The Princess and the Frog (2009), Disney animators chose to make the new princess an African American woman from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Princess and the Frog Essay Example
For the screenplay writers, directors, and animators, this meant they needed to dissect the intricate relationship between racial, gender, regional, and national cultural identity to create believable characters. Brief Synopsis: The Princess and the Frog is about a young girl who lives in New Orleans named Tiana. Tiana lives with her mother, who works for a wealthy white family, the LaBouff family. The LaBouff family has a young daughter named Charlotte and Tiana’s mother, Eudora, is making a dress for Charlotte.
Tiana and her mother are really close to Charlotte; she is around the same age as Tiana. Charlotte enjoys fairy tales so Eudora reads the story of “The Frog Prince. ” While reading the story, Charlotte becomes infatuated with the idea of kissing a frog and turning it into a prince, while Tiana is not so enthused. After the story is complete, Tiana and her mother go home. Upon arriving at home, Tiana’s father James is already there preparing gumbo; Tiana’s favorite. As the meal is finished, her father tells Tiana about his dream to one day open his own restaurant.
Tiana responds by stating that she wants to help; her father claims they will call it Tiana’s Place. Upon seeing the Evening Star outside her window, Tiana makes a wish, to which her father explains that wishing can only go so far, and that she has to help that wish along. The remainder of the movie follows Tiana as she strives to keep her father’s dream alive. In order to do so, Tiana worked and worked, only to save a majority of the money for her restaurant. In the end, Tiana fulfills her father’s dream and lived happily ever after with her prince named Naveen. Tiana and Naveen
As the main protagonists of the film, Tiana and Naveen are the natural choice for demonstrating the vast differences in cultural values between the United States and the imaginary European country Naveen purportedly hails from. Tiana is a representation of the American dream that success is available to anyone regardless of station so long as that person is willing to sacrifice and work hard to achieve the dream (Stiuliuc, 2011). Within the first few scenes after the opening credits, Tiana is depicted as hard working and frugal, eschewing relationships, entertainment, and even sleep to achieve her dream of opening a restaurant.
In sharp contrast to diligent Tiana, the introduction of Prince Naveen leaves no doubt that he irresponsible and far more interested in life’s pleasures than he is of taking responsibility for his behavior. In terms of cultural cues, this depiction of a pseudo-royal from an imagined European country represents the stereotype of decadence within the royal families and ruling class in Europe, (Stiuliuc, 2011). In addition to the national cultural identity portrayed by Tiana, another inescapable part of her identity is that she is an African American woman.
However, in regard to portraying accurate racial and gender cultural cues from the inferred time period of the movie, namely 1920s New Orleans, Disney failed to provide enough examples of the racial tensions of the time to create a believable 1920s African American woman (Gehlawat, 2010). The only depiction of any type of tension occurs early in the movie between Tiana and the two bankers. The bankers hint, though do not outright state that race is the reason, that they will not sell an abandoned sugar mill to Tiana because of her background, (The Princess and the Frog, 2010).
Aside from this, the only other depictions of the racial segregations and tensions of the time come in the beginning of the movie. The movie contrasts the beautiful home of the le Bouff family with the shanty house that Tiana lives in with her family as a child (Gehlawat, 2010). Later in the film, the New Orleans portrayed is more an idealized version of history than an accurate depiction of the times in that it is completely desegregated and people from various social statuses mingle freely. Concept and examples of cultural patterns What are concepts and patterns of cultures?
I would have to say it is what a culture shares or communicates through time. Some good examples of this would be clothes, food, social relations, words, phrases, dance, music, ethics and the list goes on almost infinitely. In the princess and the frog they chose to use a time and place conducive to their version of the story. The period they chose to use, the Southern State of Louisiana and its pearl New Orleans during the Jazz Era. As you may well know, the city New Orleans was no longer subjugated to the rule of slavery, but it was still very much segregated as they portrayed lightly in the movie.
Princess Tiana- then just Tiana, lived in the black slums of the city with her mother, and would travel everyday up to the inner city for work in a cafe, cooking good creole food, the most important of which were her Beignets. This was not an uncommon practice back then among the black community. However not everyone had it as good as Tiana, in fact most worked for the infamous sugar barons, and cottons kings of the day as share croppers back then. Sugar and cotton were the most important crops that city had to offer so it made since to be a share croppers back then.
Share Cropping is simply the owner of land allowing a person to live on that land while the owner takes a large percentage of the crops. In other words, it is no way for anyone to live. But how do you escape the hardship and pain of barely making ends meet? The answer to this question is simply music and cultural freedom. Music helps to relieve the soul of whatever is ailing it, and cultural freedom helps to aid in self-expression. Since this was the jazz era, there was a whole lot of self-expression going on.
Let’s think about the sound track for a moment here, Disney chose a well-known jazz singer performer song writer Randy Newman and, the Brass band known as the Dirty Dozen to put together the music that helped in bringing the movie to life. I think Randy’s goal was to try and recreate the passion of the time with his music, focusing on the sound of the horns and the rawness of his vocal inflections while performing the pieces. What a great job Randy did working with Disney to recreate a place on innovation and majesty.
In combination with the Architecture, food, colors, music, and customs Disney really made you feel as if you were stepping back into the roaring twenties in New Orleans. Cultural Bias Cultural biases are a normal part of human nature. Individuals tend to see themselves as belonging to a specific group based on ethnic origin, regional association, or nationality. It is this sense of cultural belonging that leads individuals to develop biases toward those they recognize as belonging to a different group.
These cultural biases are demonstrated through behaviors like stereotyping, ethnocentrism, prejudice, discrimination, and racism. In the movie, The Princess and the Frog, there were quite a few cultural biases depicted throughout the movie. In the presentation of the main characters, Tiana and Naveen, there was a very specific racial issue that caused much speculation. If the movie was supposed to focus on African American characters, why was Tiana’s Prince not African American?
There were also some racial biases, such as the antagonists in the movie having a darker skin tone than the protagonists, even though the animators intended for the protagonists to be people of color. Voodoo was also a big cultural bias used in this Disney movie. The New Orleans area is almost synonymous with the place where all African Americans who practice voodoo go to live. Voodoo is a cultural bias, in itself, because it is a stereotype of what “evil” African Americans use to do bad things to people.
According to Disney’s portrayal, Voodoo is not a specific religion, but a type of superstition or magic beliefs that people usually try to stay far away from. Some less obvious cultural bias’ in the movie were representations of American culture such as; Tiana’s hard working way of life making her a bore, the accents and way of speaking by the southern characters who live near the bayou, and the sexual bias that Tiana’s life was better once she found love and a man that she could marry (Dargis, 2009).
Though these cultural biases were not directly stated in this children’s film, it was not hard to tell that Disney did include them hoping to entertain an audience. Verbal Intercultural communication With the different cultural backgrounds of the cast in the movie, The Princess and the Frog, some verbal intercultural communication theories are embedded. Most noticeable in this movie is Hofstede’s power distance theory. Power distance “refers to how much a culture does or does not accept and value hierarchical relationships and respect for authority,” Jim C. 2005)
The Princess and the Frog highlights both ends of power distance, the low- power distance and the high-power distance. Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff and her daughter Charlotte La Bouff exhibit the traits of a low-power distance family, while Tiana and her parents exhibit the traits of a high-power distance family. “Children raised in high power-distance cultures are expected to obey their parents without challenging or questioning them, while children raised in low power-distance cultures put less value on obedience and are taught to seek reasons or justifications for their parents’ actions,” (Lustig & Koester, 2010).
This trait is apparent from the beginning of the movie, when Tiana’s father inculcates the habit of hard work as a pathway to success. Although she made wishes with the evening star, her father emphasized that hard work has to follow wishes for it to come through. This teaching and believe systems from her father helped see her through her dreams of owning a restaurant, working two jobs and depriving herself of any form of pleasure to achieve her goal. She strictly adhered to what her father taught her as a child out of respect for the man who sacrificed so much to give her family a future.
As the daughter of a wealthy man, Charlotte does not exhibit the same version of the American values that Tiana does. She was raised in a household full of riches and did not have to work for anything. She asks for no advice, takes no responsibility for her future, or lacks for any want. As demonstrated early in the movie, Charlotte need only ask her father for what she wants and she receives it without doing anything to earn it. She believed that her wishes could always come through by merely making wishes through the evening star.
This represents the dark underbelly of American culture that runs counter to the belief that hard work, determination, and sacrifice will lead a person to success. Members of this counter-culture, regardless of racial identity or social class, appear to hold the belief that others will always provide for them, therefore they should not need to work for what they want or need. Conclusion The topics that are discussed throughout the paper are all topics that would be beneficial when communicating with people from other cultures. The topic of cultural differences is multi-dimensional and numerous areas exist.
After reading this paper, one should have a better understanding of cultural identity, cultural bias, the concept of cultural patterns, and types of cultural patterns that are exhibited amongst various cultures.