City of Frogs

Kate wants to kiss a frog. Because she thinks it will turn her into one. And she really likes to pretend to be a frog.

We saw The Princess and the Frog the day before Christmas. The movie is big talk around these parts, where there is an acute sensitivity towards how this city and us, the people who live within it, are characterized. Let’s just say that we’re accustomed to disappointment and leave it at that.

With this movie? Our peanut gallery was not disappointed.

Okay, YES. Cajuns are stereotyped to be backwards fools with few teeth, which was not a surprise. It’s a cartoon. There has to be someone for good-humored slapstick conflict and in a film based in the South, it’s not a surprise where the buffoon character is going to come from. (And in all honesty, it could have been much worse.) Besides, the main Cajun representation of the film, beloved ole’ Ray, is the hero of the story. (Plus, he’s hilariously funny. “I’m from far, far away…” “Oh, y’all in from Shreveport?”)

All in all, the beautiful pictures of New Orleans — so delicately and thoughtfully portrayed — were as authentic as they come. In terms of the food, I was all ready to give an eye-roll over all the talk about gumbo and beignets, as if that’s all we eat around here. But then just last night we made that very same movie tableau. There we were, sharing in on a friends gumbo pot, talking and laughing while the kids ran around collecting fallen magnolia leaves and singing Louisiana songs. So, yes, there is a lot of gumbo-talk and eating and all that. But for the record, we do eat other things, too.

We loved the bands in the street, the bright colors of each setting, the subtle hints to local lore and tradition (Evangeline, as the best example).

In the minefield of race and representations, I found the movie respectful. Are Tiana and her family too much the happy servant? I’m sure this is already out there in spades. But it’s a fairytale following the fairytale story line — poor girl turned princess. I thought that French-speaking, penniless Prince Naveen was made somewhat racially ambiguous on purpose. Class and race are tied together in uncomfortable ways not just in New Orleans but all through the United States — the movie didn’t betray this reality. Unlike many other classic Disney animation films, I feel very comfortable showing this to my kids without having to apply revisionist history. (Having conversations about what Cinderella majors in when she goes to college, as an example.)

Have others seen The Princess and the Frog? Tell me then, y’all — did it make you fall in love, even a little bit, with our beautiful city and wonderful State?