Friday, May 15, 2020

Why Tiana is One of My Favorite Disney Princesses

(Guest Post by David T)

“..Almost there. I’m almost there. People down here think I’m crazy. But I don’t care. Trials and tribulations, I’ve had my share. There ain’t nothing gonna stop me now, cause I’m almost there.” 

Over ten years ago, on the 11th of December 2009, Walt Disney Pictures debuted their newest princess. Making animation history in The Princess and the Frog, Tiana became the first African American Disney Princess. From the moment I saw her on the big screen, Tiana has been one of my favorite Disney Princesses. I feel a personal connection with Tiana, drawn inspiration from her, and love her courage. 

Personal Connection
As a boy, one of my favorite role-playing activities was as a chef, pretending to whip up and serve my own culinary creations. I would imagine managing my own restaurant or cafe. In fact, my childhood dream was to have my own restaurant where I would have specific decor and serve specialty pizzas. I had long abandoned that dream by the time I saw The Princess and the Frog. But when I learned that Tiana loved to cook, and dreamed of owning a restaurant like her daddy, James, I grew nostalgic. I recalled the excitement of my childhood dream. And while I don’t want to be a chef or restaurant owner, I still felt (and still do feel) a personal connection to Tiana. As she sang how she was “almost there” in achieving her dreams, I teared up, and was so happy when they were fully realized.

After a long period of unemployment, I was hired as a server at a restaurant. Working in food service wasn’t my first choice, but it was a job to pay the bills, and Tiana and her work ethic inspired me to remain positive. I greeted guests warmly, served them their favorite meals, and ensured they had a great experience just like Tiana did at her morning job at Duke’s Cafe. There were times I worked double shifts. True, I wasn’t saving up for my own restaurant like Tiana was, but she still inspired me when the hours were long and I went home really tired.

Kindness, determination, generosity, friendship, and hard work, among others make Tiana a princess. However, what I think truly makes Tiana the princess heroine of her film is her courage in the face of temptation. In an effort to retrieve his voodoo blood talisman from her possession, Dr. Facilier conjures up an illusion of “Tiana’s Place” (the name of her future restaurant), complete with Tiana wearing the white gown imagined in the "Almost There" musical sequence. The “Shadow Man” negotiates the exchange of the magical object by promising to fulfill Tiana’s dream. As part of his effort to persuade her, the voodoo doctor reminds the young woman who has had to work hard all her life of the unsupportive and discouraging comments made by a coworker, friends, and businessmen through visual memories. To try to seal the deal, a visual memory of Tiana’s hardworking father appears, reminding her of James’ unfulfilled restaurant dream. As Tiana intently stares at the image of her family, her grip on the talisman begins to loosen, and Dr. Facilier whispers into her ear that she’s “almost there.”

In that powerful moment of temptation, when her dream could finally come true, Tiana remembers her father and mother’s counsel and definitively and courageously rejects the Shadow Man’s deal. Tightening her hold again on the valuable magical piece, Tiana declares “my daddy never did get what he wanted. But he had what he needed. He had love! He never lost sight of what was really important. And NEITHER WILL I!” The courage to make this crucial decision, to not take the offer, Tiana held fast to her values and standards. Even if it meant remaining a frog the rest of her life, she willingly sacrificed her lifelong dream and smashed the talisman. Tiana embraced what she needed, which was Naveen and the love that they shared.

I love Tiana today just as much as I did the day when I first saw her on the big screen. I feel just as connected to her, find her just as inspiring, and love her courage just as much; which is why Tiana is one of my all-time favorite Disney Princesses!!!!! “Grab somebody, come on down. Bring your paintbrush, we’re paintin’ the town. There’s some sweetness goin’ around. Dreams do come true in New Orleans!”

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