Gender Roles – Women
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Men
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
Tiana is an independent and hard-working young woman. She's dedicated to making her dreams a reality - and without the help of a fairy godmother or foolishly wishing on stars. She grew up with the same fairy tales as her wealthy friend Charlotte, but was more impressed with her father’s stories about building a sense of community through good food and music. She plans to build her dreams around those values, rather than marrying into luxury. Tiana is also a gifted chef who believes in her own talent, and easily convinces others to believe in her too.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 4 Stars
Tiana spends a good deal of the movie as a frog, and even wins the love of Prince Naveen while she is trapped in the body of a slimy amphibian. When she and Naveen are unable to break the spell by the end of Mardi Gras, they resign themselves to living in the swamp as frogs, satisfied that at least they will be together. This unexpected development teaches an unmistakable message about the value of character over appearances.
Even as a young woman, however, Tiana presents a wholesome, down-to-earth version of feminine beauty. In one of her first scenes, she comes home from a hard day of work with disheveled hair and tired eyes. She changes from one work uniform to the next, while her friend Charlotte changes from gaudy dress to gaudy dress. Tiana makes her way to work in a pair of flat shoes and a practical ponytail, winning hearts with her simple charm and radiance.
Family: 4 Stars
The Princess and the Frog takes a refreshing departure from the typical storyline of an overprotective father trying to marry off his daughter. Tiana’s father James is a caring and dedicated family man, who doesn’t hesitate to share his most heartfelt dreams with his young daughter. He encourages her gift for cooking and looks to her as a future partner.
James and Tiana’s relationship stands in stark contrast to that of Big Daddy and Charlotte LaBoeff, who represent a more traditional depiction of a father who showers his daughter with gifts and encourages her taste for lavish gowns and parties. Charlotte and Big Daddy are portrayed in a way that pokes fun at this sort of excess and superficiality - and are included more for comic relief than as relatable characters. They may represent a tacky and unappealing "princess" mindset, but it's clear that they aren’t meant to act as role models or inspire childhood dreams.
Gender Roles - Men: 2 Stars
Prince Naveen is an attractive young man whose character is unappealing in every other sense. He is the polar opposite of Tiana, unambitious and vain. He cares only for music, dancing, and womanizing, to the extent that his wealthy parents have cut him off from the family fortune. Naveen comes to New Orleans with the intention of finding a rich young woman to marry so that he can carry on his carefree lifestyle. While Naveen experiences a change of attitude and a change of heart while in the bayou with Tiana, this plotline supports the persistent myth that men cannot and need not grow up until they fall in love.
Plot: 3 Stars
The Princess and the Frog starts out with a strong storyline that is focused on Tiana finally closing in on the dreams that her father passed on to her. She’s on the verge of purchasing an old saw mill and transforming it into something special, a standing tribute to her father. Unfortunately, the narrative is interrupted when Prince Naveen arrives and Tiana falls under the curse of the Shadow Man. Once in the bayou, Tiana’s “adventures” are reduced to escaping swamp crocodiles and locals hungry for frog legs. She is given one shining moment when she stands up to the Shadow Man, but the real hero of the movie is neither Tiana nor Naveen. That honor goes, without question, to a gap-toothed firefly named Ray, who’s fallen in love with the evening star.
Character Development: 3 Stars
While Tiana’s character is fairly developed in the initial scenes, she becomes far less real and relatable once she is turned into a frog. She no longer has the same pressures or concerns that she did as a human. Her problems are foreign and comical, rather than suspenseful or heartbreaking. The spell breaks the audience’s connection with what might have been a truly compelling and inspiring heroine. She does go through a slight change as a frog, learning to make some room in her heart for love. But this same lesson would have had far more impact in the kitchen of her new restaurant, or the porch of her girlhood home - some time and place that reminded us of the vibrant woman we met at the beginning, rather than the cartoonish frog that she’s become.
Love: 3 Stars
The love story between Tiana and Prince Naveen is a bit simplistic and not entirely believable. The two characters have strikingly dissimilar personalities and clearly don’t care for each other at the outset. To make matters worse, Naveen is intent on marrying Tiana’s childhood friend, Charlotte, solely to inherit her father’s fortune. Audiences are expected to believe that Naveen’s privileged habits and sense of entitlement have been reversed after only a few days in the bayou. And as is frequently the case in these sorts of romances, we're asked accept that love is simply a matter of forcing two people together until they learn to understand one another.
All this aside, it is certainly true that Tiana stays true to herself while falling for Naveen - and that he comes to support and encourage her dreams. Tiana’s romance would have been more engaging, however, had Naveen been someone more worthy of her love.
Friendship: 1 Star
The friendship between Tiana and Charlotte, while initially promising, never matures beyond a superficial fondness. Charlotte talks to Tiana about her dreams of marrying a real prince, but never asks about Tiana’s dreams or the progress she’s making towards her restaurant. She has a caring heart and is quick to offer Tiana one of her own gowns for her masquerade party, but she is clueless that Tiana is heartbroken over the possibility of losing the saw mill to another buyer. While it is heartwarming to see such an unexpected friendship that crosses both racial and economic lines, the girls don’t share enough intimate moments to be much more than a stereotype - girlfriends who talk about dresses and boys, and very little else.