“Are you sure this movie was created in 2010?” Said the other Stabbington brother, in disbelief. “And they think we’re the bad guys of this movie? Talk about underrepresentation.”
“Well if you or Gothel are interested in reading more about it, I found a really good tumblr discussion about this entire issue,” said the first Stabbington brother.
(*POC: Person or People of Color)
But…. the movie’s set in medieval Scotland.
Should Disney draw some more characters and stories from other settings? Sure. Currently, white women make up 60% of the 10 Disney princesses, with the 4 WOC all having been added since 1992- because 4 of the 5 films that added to the princess roster since ‘92 have been about WOC. Each of these films was both problematic and progressive in different ways. Aladdin had the first non-white princess, but had some serious race issues regarding the voices, the opening song, the stereotypes… well, everything, actually. Pocahontas included a WoC and some anti-racist messages, but also indulged in the Noble Savage and ecological Indian archetypes. Mulan had an empowered WoC female character- the most empowered in any Disney movie up until then- but, again, had some problematic stereotypes about China (one thinks that stereotypes might just be integral to Disney movies. I think Brave is going to indulge in some pretty serious Scottish stereotypes. Of course, relations being what they are racially, Scottish stereotypes tend to be more easily forgiven than Chinese ones). I haven’t seen the movie with this Tiana lady, so I won’t comment. Rapunzel, of course, had a white princess (which, after four movies in a row with WoC princesses, maybe not so bad, except there are already five other white princesses), but famously passed the Bechdel test for the first time. Brave apparently has an empowered princess, with no apparent love interest, but is yet another white princess.
Two thoughts on their choice of Scotland for the source of their next movie- first, it should be noted that all of their previous white princesses have been drawn from Germanic European peoples- overwhelmingly German, with one French and a single Danish mermaid. The Scottish princess, being from a Celtic nation, *is* the first non-Germanic European they have. They also lack, by the way, any Eastern Europeans or Southern Europeans. Obviously, of course, this needs to be viewed in light of the fact that their WoC also all only represent one nation- there’s no Cherokee, Lakota, Japanese, Korean, Afghan, Bedouin, Zulu, or Somali princesses.
That brings me to my next concern- that Disney’s basically given a token princess from East Asia, America (as in Native American), Africa (albeit African-American), and ‘the Middle East’ (is Jasmine supposed to be Persian? Arab? Indian? Australian Aborigine? It’s hard to tell because that movie puts Muslim history and culture through a blender with a strong dose of Orientalism). So, I think Disney, for their next movie, should go ahead and revisit other cultures and their stories. They could try an Australian aboriginal princess, or an Ainu one, or some other culture they haven’t come close to addressing yet. They should do it with an empowered princess and minimal stereotyping. That’d be awesome.
But, for this film, they did Scotland. Could they have added some PoC into the film? I guess so, but are we really that surprised that a film set in medieval Scotland had no people of color? Black people didn’t make a large presence in Scotland until the imperial/colonial age (people can claim that Coinneach mac Dubh was ‘a moor’, but this is a spurious claim based off of the ‘Dubh’. My own family’s name, in Gaelic, is literally translated to ‘black foreigners’, and we’re descended from Danish raiders. In the Gaelic world, ‘Dubh’ doesn’t mean ‘African’. At all). So, being a film set in medieval Scotland, I’m not going to complain about this one.