BY JENI NANCE
Why is there only one African American Disney princess? Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” adaptation is the only Disney princess who was written with the intention of being a Black woman and representing that background.
The same can be said for Mulan representing Asian culture and Pocahontas representing Native American culture – there is only one of each. Not to mention the lack of a Latina princess.
With the release of “Peter Pan & Wendy” and the upcoming premiere of the live action “Snow White,” Disney seems to have taken up race-swapping and rewriting important plot points as a form of inclusion for people of color rather than writing stories with ethnic backgrounds to begin with. As a Disney fan myself, I decided to deep dive into the films that have sparked the latest controversy.
While I cannot speak for everyone and their experiences, I can speak to what I’ve observed as a Colombian woman.
I am personally disappointed to see Disney’s creative laziness, especially since they have brought so many people’s imaginations to life through their original storylines. People of color deserve their own stories. It’s like receiving hand-me-down clothing from another sibling versus getting new clothes.
When the newest live action adaptation of “Peter Pan & Wendy” came out, I was so excited to see it. It has been a few months since the movie was released, and since then, it has received very poor ratings.
Tinkerbell was played by Yara Shahidi. My initial reaction was relief at seeing more inclusion and diversity in the cast. As the movie went on, however, I noticed that some of the other casting choices made little sense given the original story line, like their decision to cast both boys and girls as Lost Boys.
While I can understand it is nearly impossible to stay true to a story in its entirety, it is important to incorporate some aspects in order to portray it properly.
What most people forget about the original story is that the Lost Boys have never seen a girl before they meet Wendy. This was a relevant point in the original story because them being unfamiliar with girls lead to their skepticism towards Wendy, which we see develop throughout the film. We watch the Lost Boys learn and adjust their behavior towards her, which went completely overlooked in the live action film.
Additionally, while I initially believed the casting choice for Tinkerbell was intended to be a sincere act of inclusion, towards the end, I realized that this was more of an act of self-preservation in respect to the new “woke” generation.
With the release of the live action Little Mermaid, many fans were taken aback by who was cast as Ariel. Halle Bailey drew much attention from the public as the new little mermaid.
Most of the comments I’ve seen about Bailey are combative, talking about how the “real” Ariel is white, but that is not what came to mind when I saw the trailer. Again, I was excited to see more inclusion in the casting of these live action movies, but I couldn’t help thinking about why it isn’t the standard to see people of color star in such movies to begin with.
The new live-action “Snow White” is intended to be released in March of 2024, starring Colombian-American actress, Rachel Zegler. Not only has the casting choice for “Snow White” turned some heads, but so has the alteration of the characters once known as the seven dwarfs.
Disney has recast the original seven dwarfs as “magical creatures” in the upcoming film, which they claim is to avoid reinforcing stereotypes. This is very much a lost opportunity for little people in the film industry and has only stripped them of the opportunity to both be represented and to find work.
Disney should not feel the need to rewrite their own adaptations of fairy tales in order to fit “woke culture.” While other live action adaptations never directly mimicked the animated movies, they followed the original story closely. Not only that, but I feel like it disrespects the original creator of the stories.
A lot of people do not realize that Disney didn’t write these stories. It’s their adaptation of stories written by others such as Brothers Grimm and Hans Andersen. I hope that moving forward, Disney will listen to their audience about their grievances. They should prioritize developing new inclusive stories rather than trying to revise old ones.
Jennifer Nance is a staff writer at The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review staff. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.