The problem with little Black princesses

Every time a movie comes out concerning “Black subject matter” and featuring Black actors, there is a segment of the population that almost immediately comes crawling out of the wood work with harsh critique and absurd disapproval. I call this populace “The Tiresome Talented Tenth”. These are the ones who have most likely never produced a film (of any sort) themselves or written a manuscript of critical acclaim and/or mass appeal. When a member of this group comes out in disagreement of one thing, the other egg heads make it their job to disagree harder. They are eternally concerned with being the smartest person in the room. They teach and preach, rather than perform; and they are, in my humble opinion, the lowest of hypocrites.

For those of you who may not know, the term “Talented Tenth” gained popularity when WEB Du Bois wrote an influential article on the subject in 1903. It suggests that one in ten black men would become leaders of their race through continuing education and becoming directly being involved in social change. The assertion and its implementation favored the elite among the Negro race and assigned them the mantle of bringing up the lower, less fortunate and less deserving classes. The idea was revolutionary for its day, but flawed all the same, because it still fostered an environment of division and elitism.

The Tiresome Talented Tenth dug their talons into Alice Walker and Steven Spielberg when the film The Color Purple was released in the 80’s. They railed that it depicted an unfair and negative image of Black men. They hate everything Tyler Perry has ever done. They shot their darts at Lee Daniels when the movie Precious came out this year, saying scenes when Precious stole a bucket of fried chicken reinforced negative Black stereotypes on eating and thievery. Then they took several shots at the new Disney musical The Princess and the Frog. Disney was set to release this film in spring 2009, but the release was held back due to the bickering of the TTT.

First they took issue with the lead character’s name, which was originally Maddy. “It sounds too much like ‘mammie’”, they said. I happen to know ‘Maddy’ or ‘Maddie’ is short for Madeline, a popular name in New Orleans where this film is based, and I think that comparison is an affront to every little girl who goes by the name Maddie. So Disney compromised and changed her name to ‘Tiana’, because, you know, that’s not a stereotypical Black name. Then they complained because the first Black princess had to kiss a frog. “What?” said one commentator. “A Black princess doesn’t deserve a real prince? Must she be reduced to kissing a frog before her dream man comes along?” This list went on and on.

But let me pause here so that I can hoist my hefty two hundred and fifteen pound butt onto my personal soapbox and scream:

SHUT THE (enter your own expletive here) UP!!

Let me tell you guys something about Black princesses. They don’t run barefoot in the forest picking berries and singing love songs to squirrels and raccoons. They aren’t out cleaning up cottages for a bunch of crusty dwarfs because they were too afraid to face their crazy stepmothers. Our princesses don’t fall asleep and wait for the first random dude to deliver a kiss to wake them from their slumber.

Our princesses make war.

Consider Yaa Asantewaa, Queen Mother of Ejisu who said “If the men of Asante are too afraid then I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”

Or Queen Nzinga Mbande, whose father carried her into battle as a child and who as a woman, fought tirelessly to remove the Portuguese from her lands.

Have you thought about Queen Nandi, the ambitious woman who raised the ruthless but brilliant king Shaka of Zululand? This woman began as an outcast and ascended to the highest throne in the land. You can’t do that while waiting for your fins to become legs or falling asleep on the job! I’m sure 50 years ago, Mr. Walt Disney took a look around and thought it might be cute to have a little Black princess; but upon further researching our royal ones, wisely decided to leave that assignment alone. Black royal women just don’t fit the sickly sweet musical Disney mold. A Black woman with power can destroy your dreams and as these women have shown us, destroy your life if she has an army at her disposal. The proof of that is the fire in my two year olds’ eyes when she is told “no” or she “can’t”.

But when all is said and done, my girls and I will be in line, joining the fray and masses of people plunking down my $10 to go see the new movie. It’s going to be a great movie…it’s got Oprah in it! And besides, at the end of the day, modern Black girls like to dress up in pretty gowns and play princess for day, just like anyone else.