This article is neither a review of Disney’s The Frog Princess, which will be released later this year, nor is it a critique of the sparse occurrence of positive Black role models throughout the history of Disney folklore. This article is about the internalization of imperfection, especially among young Black girls.
Personal identity is a general phrase philosophers use to describe the continuation of memories, beliefs, and values of an individual through time. Many factors contribute to the formation of personal identity, including our familial, cultural, and social interactions. Another important factor, though often overlooked in the formation of personal identity, pertains to the role of the media in shaping systems of beliefs and values among a population of consumers.
Within the Black community, one of the most sensitive topics of discussion among parents and their daughters pertains to what I would call the princess mythology — specifically Disney’s version of the mythology. Disney understands how to interpret demographic and statistical data, and the interpretation of that data surely contributed to the embodiment of their princesses, specifically their hair color.
In marketing their line of princesses to young girls, Disney understands that some girls will have red hair, some will be brunettes, some will have black hair, and others will be blondes. It is no coincidence, then, that their line of princesses and princess dolls reflect this particular demographic distribution - a distribution regarding hair color.
Why is this important?
It is significant because the young, red-haired girl may most identify with Ariel, the young blonde with Cinderella, the young brunette with Belle, and the young black-haired girl with Snow White. The particular demographic distribution that Disney was seemingly factoring heavily into its market research was the specific distribution and diversity in hair color across a projected population of consumers.