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  1. #1

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    Question Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger55 View Post
    Off topic but I am curious why Tiana is not represented on all the princess seals(stickers) and merchandise. Instead Rapunzel is featured.

    Is there some social commentary going on here with the way the princesses are marketed in Japan?
    Check this out, but be warned; the raw emotional power of what is being conveyed here can be very overwhelming and this is just the tip of the iceberg:














    What's the narrative here? What story are these items telling? If you think it's impossible to deliver emotional power through products, you're sorely mistaken. This is appalling.

    If you don't live here, you may believe these are simply exceptional examples, but no. It is nearly 100% consistent and very, very obviously deliberate. You may say it's about local market appeal, and you'd surely and sadly be right. Definitely Japan is a place where "Disney Princesses are white" has a kind of unquestioned, patent obviousness. But then you realize that Jasmine, and even Mulan (who is a Princess though not a princess) are accepted, so the message quickly becomes, "Disney Princesses are NOT black," and that message not only sticks but is openly pursued and reinforced. Is institutionalized bigotry a market force that an American global company like Disney openly embraces? Apparently yes.

    Not without irony, a real push for Princess Tiana could have been a watershed moment for little Japanese girls' (and everyone else's) understanding of the kind of race/cultural awareness that forms the bedrock for most modern industrialized high-GDP nations like Japan. Sadly, the fact that she has been de facto omitted from the Princess lineup makes it much, much worse. When she just wasn't there, it was lack of representation. But to have her exist but not include her, very aggressively not include her, sends a crystal clear message: No colored folk at the Princess table. Wait, no. It's clearer than that: No Blacks.

    And to not even talk about or question it makes it "okay."

    It bothered me when Princess and the Frog was still preparing for release that there seemed to be no real marketing push. And then it did release and there still seemed to be no attempt at generating real hype. I was deep into Disney fandom at this time and knew how the machine seemed to work; it was strange. But I told myself it was just my own hypersensitivity, cos I'm like that a lot.

    Then Rapunzel/Tangled released and even before it hit theaters, the blond, fair-eyed princess was EVERYWHERE. Suddenly there was room for seven princesses, but Tiana had somehow missed that boat. I had noticed that we never got the Tiana edition of the Animators' Collection Dolls in Japan, either, but they always staggered that release, never having the full line-up in the Disney Stores. So even though the products were heavily featured and Tiana's absence was noticeable, others were missing, too, and I could let it go...even though I knew what it meant. Rapunzel's Animators' Doll appeared right in line with a major merchandisinig push not only at Disney Stores, but with tie-in marketing all over the country. Soon enough, all the Animators' Dolls were displayed together, as they are now, with only one noticeable absence. Tiana has never been available, and isn't now. The message is very clear, "In Japan, black girls are not princesses."

    The same thing happened in the parks. I kept waiting for Tiana's Disneyland debut, but it never came. I told myself that the Japanese were simply interested in preserving their "classic" six princesses, but then Rapunzel (and Eugene/Flynn) made a big splash, even appearing in parades. I actually thought Rapunzel/Tangled was a great movie with great music and fantastic Disney feeling, but I hated how it made me feel.

    It's true that in my opinion Princess and the Frog is quite simply a badly told story with terrible music for the most part and some awful design choices at every level. But Tiana as a character is compelling. It is hard to want her to be with a selfish, little talent, womanizing drifter. It is hard to accept that the first (and likely only, ever) black Disney princess was not only not black but not/sub- human for most of her film. There are many, many very real problems with Princess and the Frog. But that is not the point. I'm not talking about how people didn't like it. I'm talking about how the usual, expected marketing push never, ever even started to happen in even the tiniest way.

    When it was just about Tiana v. Rapunzel, it hurt me, badly, often. I struggled with how I could, especially as a person of color, possibly reconcile giving emotional and financial support to a company that could do this so brazenly. But I just kept telling myself, "No, no. You're being too sensitive. The movie just wasn't very popular." But then comes Frozen, which is somehow an even "whiter" movie to me than Tangled. And by that, I don't mean race. I mean safe, privileged. Rapunzel is a far more universal and vulnerable character than either Elsa or Anna. I honestly find that both of the Frozen sisters, though I love them, come across as more entitled princesses than any other princess in the Disney canon. They both think everything in the world revolves around their emotional issues and needs - and the people around them allow them to be right. But that's a whole long other thing which I imagine most people have little stomach for, since so many seem to think Frozen is the best thing that has ever happened.

    The point is, Frozen has also had significant pre-release marketing and constant, extremely aggressive marketing EVERYWHERE throughout its theatrical run, with a new obscenely aggressive push for home media sales. Frozen is not bad. It is not, to my mind, fantastically exceptional save for a talented and charming cast and a beautiful representation of sister bond. But there are at least as many holes and problems as Princess and the Frog in terms of making a great film. The difference is that it was supported. Disney is a marketing machine. When they release a film and don't support it, the message is more than obvious, it is hurtful. My takeaway was, "We made this so black people in America could finally just shut up. Thank goodness in Japan there is no such pressure because little Japanese girls think princesses can only be white or Japanese anyway." When I read recently that there are sequel plans for Frozen, while Tiana so desperately needs a better story told, it just re-ignited this frustration and pain. And when a poster commented in another thread that Duffy had "no character," it got me thinking about how merchandising itself tells very powerful stories and I thought I'd try talking about this again. Every time I have tried to talk about the problems with Tiana and Princess and the Frog, I have been marginalized, so I won't push the issue here, but if others have thoughts on this, it would be nice to really discuss it.

    I very often think that I would prefer for Tiana to have actually never existed than to prove, undeniably, how uninvited we are, how unwelcome, with these continuous passive aggressive jabs. Like it's not even worth being overt about, and certainly nothing to apologize for. Heartbreaking. Constant. Deliberate. It was like this from the beginning; there was never even an attempt. So much more insulting than if they hadn't even bothered.
    Last edited by DuffyDaisuki; 07-28-2014 at 07:48 PM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    So here is my take on this all....

    In Japan (yes I've lived there), the main stream society still has a "thing" about black people. I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as disdain or hate, but they certainly don't seem to embrace or just even be accepting of blacks in Japanese society as compared to other countries. BTW, this is not limited to just blacks but is also true for other people of "color" living in Japan.

    Now it should be noted that Japan is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. There just isn't a lot of diversity like you would see in the western societies. The every day Japanese person might have little to no contact with someone of a different ethnicity. This is not an excuse, but might be part of an explanation.

    You might wonder why Caucasians on the other hand, seem to be embraced and even idolized by much of main stream Japanese society. This is a very interesting question and personally I wonder if it goes back to the days after WWII when the Americans occupied Japan. Japan was a defeated country, with the victors occupying their country and trying to show the Japanese all the virtues of the western society. This was at a time where Japan was down and out, and needed to find a way to rise from the ashes of war. This is all just speculation on my part and would welcome other informed opinions.

    So how does this apply to the topic of the Disney Princesses and the blatant omission of Tiana?

    It is my opinion that those who are in the decision making positions at OLC and Disney Japan are catering to what they believe (right or wrong) the thoughts and views of the main stream Japanese society. They believe that a Disney princess of color will not be embraced by the majority of Japanese.

    They know that the Caucasian princesses will be loved so they feature only them. What the don't seem to want to do is embrace Tiana, who is a TRUE Disney princess, and use her as an opportunity to break down the old entrenched views of blacks held by Japanese society.

    I will begrudgingly have to admit that I also believe sales of Tiana merchandise would not be as popular as those of Rapunzel. But that doesn't mean you completely omit her or pretend like she isn't a Disney princess.

    It saddens me that OLC and Disney Japan are missing this great opportunity to educate, enlighten and enhance the young Japanese people and open up their minds to the ENTIRE world we all live in.

    (How's that for a rant DD? )
    Last edited by Roger55; 07-28-2014 at 08:43 PM.

  3. #3

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    d it, and I know it was probably very hard for you to embrace one of my silly rants, so it's extra special to me!

    Seriously, that meant a lot. It's more than I can say with all my rambling words to have someone else just acknowledge what this is. Thank you.^^

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    Thumbs up Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    Sorry for the double post, but I was short on time before.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger55 View Post
    So here is my take on this all....

    In Japan (yes I've lived there), the main stream society still has a "thing" about black people. I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as disdain or hate, but they certainly don't seem to embrace or just even be accepting of blacks in Japanese society as compared to other countries. BTW, this is not limited to just blacks but is also true for other people of "color" living in Japan.
    This is absolutely true; it is not hate or disdain. In fact, I'd even say there's acceptance — as long as you stay in your place. It's different from the historic white sense of "keeping the black man down," though, I think. Like so much of Japanese society, unfortunately, I think it is very simply about not complicating things and a deep, pervasive resistance to both change and analytical critical thinking (outside of technical research). Social deconstruction is not encouraged here, most likely not because Japan is an "evil" place or something, but because unlike the United States, for example, societal diversity does not require it as imperative, as you rightly say.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger55 View Post
    Now it should be noted that Japan is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. There just isn't a lot of diversity like you would see in the western societies. The every day Japanese person might have little to no contact with someone of a different ethnicity. This is not an excuse, but might be part of an explanation.
    Yet it is equally right to insist that this is not an excuse. Many nations in the EU still have significantly less diversity than, again, the US, and yet the people there often seem more globally aware and culturally acute than many Americans. Speaking of, on the flip-side, it's not like there aren't large swathes of American communities in which whatever the local majority is dominates with absolute, authoritarian conformity. The difference, though, is that in the larger picture of American society as a whole, as well as the fundamental basis of social order, diversity is not only tolerated, but valued. Recognition of ethnic and other minorities is paid lip service even in places where no one ever sees one, and minorities are taught to attempt to integrate peaceably even if they've lived they're entire life in a ghetto. This is true for whites, blacks, both genders, immigrants, gays, straights, people with disabilities or lots of money, and those without. In Japan, this picture of vast, complicated difference is rarely given any kind of attention, even domestically. Most Japanese, I reckon, still truly believe their own society is a flat plane of sameness, which is ridiculous, of course. Except that so many people are trying so hard to believe it that sometimes it almost feels real.

    There's no room for "black" as I see it, or as most Western industrialized nations understand it in a worldview like that. There's no room to truly understand the horror of what is happening when Tiana is omitted. And any attempts to explain it instantly served only to underscore your "foreigner" status, and now you're a "bad foreigner," with the audacity to question Japan. I love this nation deeply, almost patriotically. But I HATE that part.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger55 View Post
    You might wonder why Caucasians on the other hand, seem to be embraced and even idolized by much of main stream Japanese society. This is a very interesting question and personally I wonder if it goes back to the days after WWII when the Americans occupied Japan. Japan was a defeated country, with the victors occupying their country and trying to show the Japanese all the virtues of the western society. This was at a time where Japan was down and out, and needed to find a way to rise from the ashes of war. This is all just speculation on my part and would welcome other informed opinions.
    In my view, all of that is incredibly complicated and I'm not a historian, really. But I'll offer my thoughts. Japan is, like old Britain, a nation of pride, arrogance, absolutism and victory. Not the Japanese people, mind you, the nation itself. And really, I might argue that all nations which see themselves as nations rather than just countries, are like this. The loss of the war was shocking, certainly. The power and bravado of America so overwhelming as to demand capitulation.

    Over time, Japan and the US (which only recently does not = white people in many Japanese minds) have developed true respect and admiration for each other. The people, not the nations. The US still treats Japan like a lap dog on the global geopolitical stage, neither taking its complexity nor its context in Asia very seriously.

    On the other hand, Japan still acts like it sees itself with a sense of superiority, entitlement and infallibility that might even make America blush. Japanese are some of the most traveled, most careful, most gentle people in the world. But as long as the worldview remains fundamentally Japan/foreign, with the important note that Japanese is always better, the kind of cultural sensitivity that would stop problems from arising will continue to persist. There has to be some impetus to see caring about issues of representation as important to Japan, but there seems to be an actual pride about the fact that "we Japanese are all the same so we don't have conflict and violence like in your country." :bang

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger55 View Post
    So how does this apply to the topic of the Disney Princesses and the blatant omission of Tiana?

    It is my opinion that those who are in the decision making positions at OLC and Disney Japan are catering to what they believe (right or wrong) the thoughts and views of the main stream Japanese society. They believe that a Disney princess of color will not be embraced by the majority of Japanese.

    They know that the Caucasian princesses will be loved so they feature only them. What the don't seem to want to do is embrace Tiana, who is a TRUE Disney princess, and use her as an opportunity to break down the old entrenched views of blacks held by Japanese society.

    I will begrudgingly have to admit that I also believe sales of Tiana merchandise would not be as popular as those of Rapunzel. But that doesn't mean you completely omit her or pretend like she isn't a Disney princess.

    It saddens me that OLC and Disney Japan are missing this great opportunity to educate, enlighten and enhance the young Japanese people and open up their minds to the ENTIRE world we all live in.
    To this last, I'll just say YES.

  5. #5

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    I've been to Japan about 80 times, and traveled quite a bit in the country. I would say that the number of people I've seen with black skin is no more than 2 dozen. It's still always a shock to see a dark-skinned face. I live in a very culturally diverse city in the US, so going someplace and seeing only white faces has always been an odd experience.

    But the Japanese have embraced Princess Jasmine, and she's certainly a dark-skinned girl, though not "black." So it's not about just white or Asian folks.

    I also thought that the Frog and the Princess was a great Disney movie--and it got no love from audiences for reasons I don't understand.
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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    I think it is unfair to say that racism in Japan is the reason why black girls cannot be princesses, since (as mentioned by other posters above) Princess Jasmine is not white.

    Put simply, the storyline of the Frog and the Princess was not very popular and therefore Tiana is not part of the Disney princess merchandise in Japan.

    I also doubt that it is just a coloured skin thing because there are people of African origin who are famous in Japan.

    If Disney can come up with a movie featuring a black princess that can win the hearts of the Japanese audience, then Jasmine will not be the only non white Princess featured in Disney merchandise.

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    Jasmine is also frequently omitted, but Jasmine represents a section of the parks, so not usually. Jasmine feels "Oriental," too, not black. Just like I said "white" earlier was not just about skin; black is also not just about skin. It's about context. I didn't mention Jasmine so as not to cloud the issue. The lack of promotion for P&F happened before the film was released, throughout its run and home media release. It wasn't about audience reaction; it was an issue long before there was anything to react to. The issue was, in fact, not providing enough to react to. They did not try.

    Aside from all that, as I tried to clarify in the first post, it is not about being "dark-skinned;" it is about being black. And it is not about not being "famous;" it is about not being boxed into a limited number of roles, types and tropes.

    I'm curious, hawachan; if you don't mind me asking, how long have you lived in Japan? You can doubt and disagree with me if that's your experience, but there is nothing "unfair" about me noticing and calling attention to this very real problem. It is a well-documented, frequently discussed issue in Japan. I will not scour for sources; if you're really interested, look it up. It won't take long to find many. But it is not racism the way we tend to think of the word in the US. In some ways, to me, it's worse because it is understood as an "innocent" matter of "fact," and correction is viewed as irrelevant. I remember when I first came here in 2001, there were "Black Music" parties and major record stores like Tower had a "Black Music" section. Now there's soul, reggae, R&B, hip-hop, rap. Progress.

    Like how Japanese people travel overseas and talk about the "foreigners" they met, you know, the locals. Just like that, there is no real maliciousness in it (which neither excuses nor makes it okay); it is simply a fundamentally flawed worldview. It often goes unchallenged and when it is pointed out that when traveling overseas, the Japanese person is the "foreigner," the response is frequently a dismissive sense that what happened was pure semantics, sometimes even accompanied by the notion that "in Japanese we call them foreigners even when traveling because what I mean is they are not Japanese." Incredibly intelligent, well-educated, well-traveled, genuinely kind and thoughtful, beautiful, rational people whom I respect and love have said this to me, like this, many times since I have lived here. What "racism" means in this context has very little in common with something like the Ku Klux Klan, but some similarities to apartheid.

    I think most POC immediately understand that regardless of the popularity of the film, taking so long to create a black princess, finally doing so and making a biiiig deal about her race, setting her film in an intensely racially charged time and place but barely acknowledging those issues, making her subhuman so that her black skin was not even part of her for most of the film after making such a BIIIIIG deal about her being black and then as soon as the next blond white girl appears completely removing her as if she never existed — most POC and people sensitive to this issue I think understand the problem. Particularly in a society lacking lots of black representation to challenge it, whether the film was popular or not, the message communicated when you treat Tiana as literally disposable is too damaging and callous to be justifiable. No, let me change that. I don't think it requires being a POC or especially sensitive to understand this. I think the problem is very clear with only the tiniest amount of sensitivity and historical awareness. Erasing Tiana is NOT okay. But she wasn't even really erased; she was never fully there in the first place. They did not try.

    Not seeing black people everywhere, Fukai, is the reason that actually campaigning behind Tiana and putting her in the parks was so important. If she had been meet-able and was kind and beautiful and then you could go see her movie which was promoted everywhere and then go buy her stuff in the Disney Stores or the park and dress up in her amazing dress at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, the film might have seen more success, too. They did not try.

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    I think I've felt a lot of what's being expressed here, I've just never been eloquent enough to put it into words.

    As far as the film is concerned, no, The Princess and the Frog is not up to par with the likes of Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid. HOWEVER. It is the last 2D, traditional animated movie-musical with a female protagonist that Disney has produced and I actually quite enjoyed it. I still remember my experience seeing it in the movie theater. I actually got a little bit misty-eyed. Having grown up in the 90's, Mermaid, Beast, Aladdin, etc. were the VHS tapes my baby-sitters popped in to keep me quiet. Sure, Disney has produced several good films since I was a child, but Princess and the Frog felt like a return to form. Simply seeing a traditionally animated musical was enough to bring back a flood of memories that had been locked away for more than a decade.

    I love Tiana. I agree. Despite any problems you have with the film, she's a compelling character; one that I would love my future daughter(s) to look up to.

    As far as "black" and Japan, that's a pandora's box that I don't feel fully equipped to tackle. I will say this: I am half-Japanese, have lived in Japan and the States and there is certainly a prejudice towards people of African heritage that is bigger and more significant than Caucasians. Of course, everything is subjective and we have to remember that while cultural patterns exist,every culture is made up of individuals. I know several half-black, half-Japanese families and I'm sure they've all had their fair share of ups and downs in regards to Japanese society, but I can't speak for them personally.

    As for me, I want to see Tiana lined up with the rest of the princesses, even if she doesn't sell well. I want to see her greeting girls dressed as her. I always keep my eye out for her in Disney parks stateside and my heart sinks when I realize she is completely invisible in Japan. There are plenty of valid assumptions I could make as to why she isn't represented, but at the end of the day, I don't know why. But I honestly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, wish that she were there. This thread has inspired me to look for a method to quietly, respectfully, but very deliberately raise my voice regarding the matter.

    Good on you for having the guts to say it, even in this little forum.

  9. #9

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    Tiana is not featured because PatF bombed in Japan. Her absence has nothing to do with racism, it has everything to do with marketing and business.

    If you want to get into the why underlying that, which it appears several posters do, that's completely understandable. I'm not so sure a thread on Micechat is the place to do that (I don't recall the last time I saw a thread in the Disneyland forum discussing institutional Anti-Arabism in the United States).

    However, since the thread is here, and there is discussion on it, I would be reluctant to call what exists in Japan as "a fundamentally flawed worldview." Many of you seem very familiar with Japanese culture and societal dynamics, but as you are familiar with the culture, you seem to be judging it on American standards.

    I guess it comes down to a question of whether you ascribe to beliefs of cultural relativism or universalism. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle--things like female genital mutilation are de facto violations of human rights that should not be tolerated anywhere. Societies that are ethnically homogenized and have certain belief systems about other races that are not intentionally malicious, but could be perceived as such by an outsider to those societies aren't as bothersome to me.

    At the end of the day, as an American, there are a lot of things that I feel are very enviable about Japanese society and culture. There are also a number of things that I personally do not view as right when judged by my personal standards and beliefs. I also understand that my beliefs are informed and biased by the society in which I was raised.

    I am quite sure that the Japanese look at American culture quite the same way--having enviable aspects and unsettling aspects. (Heck, I'm an American, and I think that about our society!)

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    Thumbs up Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneySeaFan View Post
    As far as "black" and Japan, that's a pandora's box that I don't feel fully equipped to tackle.
    Me, too!

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneySeaFan View Post
    …I will say this: I am half-Japanese, have lived in Japan and the States and there is certainly a prejudice towards people of African heritage that is bigger and more significant than Caucasians.
    I think that's true, but I don't actually even intend to be "accusing" anyone of prejudice the way Americans might usually think of it. It's the fact that they very clearly decided not to put a lot of energy into promoting this film before it even hit theaters. Exactly because Japanese "racism" is not exactly racist, if they'd really tried, they'd have been more successful. Now it's too late.

    DSF, I'm biracial, too, black and white, and I think growing up here, being referred to as simply "haafu" all the time would drive me crazy. Does it bother you? I'd first ask if it ever happens, but that just seems like a silly question!

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneySeaFan View Post
    As for me, I want to see Tiana lined up with the rest of the princesses, even if she doesn't sell well. I want to see her greeting girls dressed as her. I always keep my eye out for her in Disney parks stateside and [b]my heart sinks when I realize she is completely invisible in Japan.[\b] There are plenty of valid assumptions I could make as to why she isn't represented, but at the end of the day, I don't know why. But I honestly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, wish that she were there. This thread has inspired me to look for a method to quietly, respectfully, but very deliberately raise my voice regarding the matter.

    Good on you for having the guts to say it, even in this little forum.
    Thank you for posting, too, and so gently. I'm not always good at gentle. I tend to get riled up. But I mean well.

    It really is heartbreaking, mostly because of how well things are done and how passionate Disney fans are here. If they had really tried, you just know they could've made Tiana a hit in the parks, even if the film was legitimately problematic. Tiana could have had appeal. Naveen is kind of hopeless, though. You'll notice that in the next two Disney Princess films, the male lead wasn't a womanizer, and on the contrary, like all other princes in the past, only ever had eyes for his princess. It is, for every other princess, as if no other woman ever existed. Tiana's inequality does not start or finish with Japan, but at least in the US there's a sense that it matters not to make her invisible. Of course, this problem could be all over Asia for all I know.

    Quote Originally Posted by WDWFigment View Post
    Tiana is not featured because PatF bombed in Japan. Her absence has nothing to do with racism, it has everything to do with marketing and business.
    That is a very bold statement that seems nearly impossible to throw any legitimate support under unless you were in the room, but I'll roll with it. Even if we attempt to separate "marketing and business," I'd say the fact that no attempt was made to aggressively market a product means…something, at least.

    Quote Originally Posted by WDWFigment View Post
    If you want to get into the why underlying that, which it appears several posters do, that's completely understandable. I'm not so sure a thread on Micechat is the place to do that (I don't recall the last time I saw a thread in the Disneyland forum discussing institutional Anti-Arabism in the United States).
    I always find it odd when people post in threads to say "this thread is inappropriate or not interesting." I only post in threads when I have something to say to others saying something I care about." This power of selection is one of my favorite things about forums, particularly MiceChat. For instance, I don't ever go in the Disneyland forum, unless I hear there's Duffy bad-mouthing going on!

    Quote Originally Posted by WDWFigment View Post
    However, since the thread is here, and there is discussion on it, I would be reluctant to call what exists in Japan as "a fundamentally flawed worldview." Many of you seem very familiar with Japanese culture and societal dynamics, but as you are familiar with the culture, you seem to be judging it on American standards.
    I am extremely familiar with Japanese society and culture, and as I have tried to articulate repeatedly, I am not "judging" it; I am describing it. When I say that the worldview is fundamentally flawed, it is because of the absolute and undeniable fact that the world is not made up of "Japanese" and "foreigners," and the unfortunate reality that many, many Japanese freely acknowledge seeing the world in this way. And that many see locals as "foreigners" when traveling is severely, offensively problematic. You can choose to say, "Oh well, Japan is a different culture." But Japanese culture and society are incredible, refined, dignified and beautiful — the Japanese people I know who are willing to talk about these issues usually don't want it to be this way. They tend to think, as I do, that it is simple institutionalized habit rather than individuals' true perception or thought process. But even the individuals themselves don't notice; or if noticed, feel uncomfortable and progress is very difficult. Mostly because no one talks about it, or it's viewed as a "downer" topic, something else Japanese society does not tolerate.

    Quote Originally Posted by WDWFigment View Post
    I guess it comes down to a question of whether you ascribe to beliefs of cultural relativism or universalism. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle--things like female genital mutilation are de facto violations of human rights that should not be tolerated anywhere. Societies that are ethnically homogenized and have certain belief systems about other races that are not intentionally malicious, but could be perceived as such by an outsider to those societies aren't as bothersome to me.
    I don't see myself as an "outsider" in the country I've spent over a decade and all of my post-university life in. Japan is my home. I don't need authorization to have opinions about it. And while the society may be biologically relatively homogenous, Japan is absolutely integral to and integrated in the larger world. The "island" argument is wearisome, implying that Japanese are either too ignorant or too insensitive to understand or care about global issues of race and representation. There are many Japanese for whom that's true, as there are in any country, I imagine. But the majority of the problem is a society that refuses to think it matters whether Tiana is represented or not simply because it smells like conflict or debate.

    Quote Originally Posted by WDWFigment View Post
    At the end of the day, as an American, there are a lot of things that I feel are very enviable about Japanese society and culture. There are also a number of things that I personally do not view as right when judged by my personal standards and beliefs. I also understand that my beliefs are informed and biased by the society in which I was raised.

    I am quite sure that the Japanese look at American culture quite the same way--having enviable aspects and unsettling aspects. (Heck, I'm an American, and I think that about our society!)
    Wow, this last bit, comparative reasoning, is exactly how it's done here. It's true that there are many great things about Japan, and the whole world acknowledges them. It's true that there are MANY problems with the United States. Neither of these very true points has anything to do with it being okay to erase Tiana from representation. It is worse than if she had never been created. It is a slap in the face followed by spit in the eye. And to do it without seeing it as such, for whatever reason but particularly something as banal as money or "marketing," is to punch me in the gut, too. I think it is painful, and I think it is wrong. But the title of the thread was posed as a question very intentionally, because mostly I just wanted it discussed. So thank you. Thank you very much.

  11. #11

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    On a global scale PatF did not do well at all (as well as Disney had hoped). And since the release date here in Japan was later than that of other countries, it was probably one indicator that it would not do too well here in Japan too.

    I for one did not think the storyline of the movie was as good as some other Disney classics and I was unable to find one Japanese movie review of PatF on the internet that disliked the movie because the princess was Black. Everyone that disliked it did not like the storyline, so it would not have mattered if a lot of money was put into marketing the movie.

    I came to Japan in December 2001 and I understand that Caucasions here in general are currently regarded higher than those of African decent (and in other parts of Asia too), but this is not the reason why Tiana is not seen TDR or is not part of any type of merchandise because if Jasmine was of African origin (i.e. Black) she would still be popular in Japan as the movie had a good storyline and soundtrack.

    If Disney can come up with a movie as good as Frozen featuring a Black princess, then she will also be represented as much as some of the other Disney princesses here in Japan.

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    That's a whole lot of maybe asserted as fact, hawachan, but I think you're probably right. My concern has been framed in the wrong way. It is almost certainly true that market forces are the ostensible reason for Tiana's omission. I have tried to make it clear that I both understand and believe that myself, from the beginning. But I can see how that message could be buried in my piles of text.

    The question should really be: "Institutionalized racism in Japan justifies the blatantly intentional omission of Disney's only black princess, from the start and apparently into eternity, no questions asked?" That's much more to the actual point. Thank you.

    I also found P&F to be an incredibly disappointing film. Speaking only of my personal opinion, the music is awful, the frog designs uninteresting, Louie's design unoriginal, the firefly's design both ugly and offensive, the presence of a hysterically stereotypical rich white girl literally throwing money at the in-name-only princess of the film who clearly needs and uses it… Other princess movies are fantastic escapes and fairytales. Tiana, on the other hand gets work and a (redeemed?) womanizer as her big "prize." For the black princess in Jim Crow Louisiana, a deadbeat, broke, womanizing prince, a converted falling-apart "palace," and a lifetime of continuous hard work are her dream come true. Really? I couldn't agree more with you that the film has SERIOUS flaws.

    However, the idea that Japanese film reviewers are going to say the problem is that Tiana is black, that's plain ridiculous. Of course you didn't find those reviews. And, as I have really tried so very hard to make clear, I don't think that most Japanese people thought, "Black princess? No way! Not me! Not here!" It's not like that. It's unspoken, a given, matter of fact.

    Frozen has just as many problems, to my taste, except that they are not racially charged. There is nothing — nothing — in the film that compels me to believe in the "love" between Anna and Kristoff. Kristoff seems to love ice and Sven. He even explicitly sings that "reindeers are better than people." How does Anna change his mind — by making everything in his life suddenly about her and destroying his most valuable and prized property? I don't buy it. As compelling as Anna and Elsa's love is, the romance thread is weak.

    Where do Anna's powers come from? Is she the only one who has them? Why does the king know where the trolls are? Where are Kristoff's parents; was he abducted by trolls from their perspective? Why is the man from Weaselton seen as a villain, because he's funny-looking? Everything he does and says is reasonable, as is his curiosity about what's going on with his trading partner. The Hans reversal feels manipulative rather than masterfully clever. And though I Olaf, he feels more like a Dreamworks character than a Disney one. Those are all just my opinions, though. But I think if Frozen's leads had been black, we would not even be debating this issue. Frozen just had to be good; Tiana needed to be the best princess ever in order to be "good enough."

    I'd love to be wrong, but I doubt your last "if" is going to be tested anytime soon. P&F seemingly "proved" that both hand-drawn animation and black princesses are "bad business." I don't think there will be another black Disney princess for a long, long time. Maybe never. As evidenced here, "the film just didn't work."

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by DuffyDaisuki View Post
    I'm biracial, too, black and white, and I think growing up here, being referred to as simply "haafu" all the time would drive me crazy. Does it bother you? I'd first ask if it ever happens, but that just seems like a silly question!
    (for anyone that might be reading and hasn't lived through this) Of course it happens! Daily!

    It's certainly not my favorite, but I've learned to deal with it. It's by MILES my most significant characteristic here and yeah, I wish that certain individuals would try to find a more redeeming characteristic of mine that wasn't pre-determined by DNA. However, I think I prefer being referred to as ハーフ over the even more generic "Asian" sticker I get in the U.S.

    Once again, Pandora's Box...

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    I can totally understand that, and, yeah, America and "Asian…" There's just very rarely understanding that Asia is arguably far less unified than even the Americas, and that's really saying something. And I can completely imagine that is your convenient label Stateside. Language is so limiting, and minds are so limited. The thing I don't like about just "half," is that it sounds so abrupt, so incomplete. "Half-Japanese" would seem somewhat better to me, although that's the whole point — we know which half matters. But I'd flip that and suggest that if the Japanese half is presumptive, the other half is the one to highlight.

    Wouldn't it be nice if none of this stuff was politically or emotionally charged? If it could really be just a matter of fact or a matter of course and no labels were hurtful or marginalizing, or empowering, for that matter? Yes, it would be great. That's the dream. But pretending it's all good before we actually get there is at best ignorant and irresponsible, at worst a form of passive aggressive violence.

    Another thing I've failed to mention is how regularly and with much excitement the Japanese celebrate international imports. Mostly food and high art, but frequently also entertainment and often fashion. American media is widely consumed, of course, although Korean media has slipped into a bit of decline, I've heard.

    I am NOT actually saying that Japan doesn't love the world or aims to hurt the people in it. One of the most painful things about the Tiana issue for me is that I don't think Japan would tolerate her omission if the majority of people understood and thought about the implications.

    I'm not projecting American values on the Japanese. Japanese people care about human emotions at least as much as any other culture I can name. It's not, in my experience, an accurate reflection of the individual hearts and minds of Japanese people to just throw Tiana away, in light of what she means. For better or worse, she has to matter.

    What really burns is the fact that most people here don't think about it, have probably not even consciously noticed it (which, to me, makes the ambiguous unconscious message FAR more dangerous), coupled with the fact that Tiana was a perfect opportunity to change course — and it was missed, never even set, never even plotted. It just feels like such a waste. And seeing Rapunzel, and now Anna and Elsa EVERYWHERE, it's… I dunno. It hurts.

    Maybe hawachan is right and Disney will try again, and try harder, try better. But I'm not holding my breath. And I don't expect Tiana to appear in TDL anytime soon, either.

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    Re: Institutionalized racism in Japan asserts that black girls can't be princesses?

    What can I post/discuss on MiceChat?
    MiceChat is an entertainment centered board. While most subjects may be discussed in our various community lounges, we discourage the discussion or posting of images with a political and/or religious theme. Threads/posts/images which are focused on these topics or become in other ways heated will be moved to the "Litter Box" or MiceChat Gold's "Debate Lounge" (and are also subject to being closed).
    Folks, with no disrespect meant to the OP, to anybody who posted in this thread, nor to any of the points of view expressed, MiceChat does not allow discussions of this type, except in our adult, premium Gold Debate Lounge and Solid Gold Lounge. For that reason, this thread is now closed. Thanks for your understanding and for your follow-through going forward.
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