The Voodoo of Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog’

Among the criticisms of Disney’s much-trumpeted “The Princess and the Frog” are those saying it desecrates religion: That the movie’s depiction of Voodoo is misinformed and that it ignores the Catholicism embedded in New Orleans where the animation is set.
Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Miami, said the film perpetuates offensive stereotypes about Voodoo, associating it with evil, death, menacing masks and dark roaring spirits:

The terms Voodoo, Hoodoo, and conjuring are used interchangeably throughout. In the end one is presented with an evil religion that will ultimately fail.
I did not expect critical race analysis or a sophisticated presentation of Voodoo when I walked into the theater. It is, after all, Disney. I did not expect such a blatant, racist, and misinformed presentation of Voodoo, however. The reduction of religion to magic is also reaffirmed in the curious absence of Catholicism in the film. My son is correct, Disney Voodoo is bad magic; it just doesn’t have anything to do with the authentic African Diaspora religion.

Read on at the jump.

In a companion review, UPenn scholar Anthea Butler also writes of how the Catholicism of 1920s New Orleans is curiously missing:

New Orleans has some of its charm, but the real disappointment comes at the end of the movie where St. Louis Cathedral plays a big role in two important senses. No mention of the cathedral’s name is given, and even worse, anything “Catholic” about New Orleans is absent from the scene. It’s as though the only “religion” that exists is the reference to “bad” v. good magic or voodoo

Jeff Weiss, who used to cover religion for the Dallas Morning News, said conservative Christian film reviewers unhappy with the film have some solid arguments:

…”In a movie that makes such an effort to capture the look and feel of that place at that time, I’d have expected at least a nod toward religion. The chances are pretty close to 100 percent that a successful, stable African-American family like Tiana’s in 1920s New Orleans would have been hitting church on Sundays. We see family meals, a party, a wedding and a funeral.
But there’s not a whisper of Christianity in the narrative.
To the contrary, prayers are offered to a wishing star that looks amazingly like the one that got Pinocchio’s plot started. The forces of darkness are battled by light – real light, like the light from a lightning bug’s bottom. Evil is punished and unredeemed. And the good guys win by dint of self-sufficiency and clear self-awareness.

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