The Beauty of a Working Woman
By Renuka Koilpillai
Although this film is a fairytale, the message that its portrays is quite atypical for its genre. From the beginning of the story, it is clear that Tiana doesn’t believe in fairytales, but rather hard work. It is this hard work and determination that not only earn her own restaurant in the end but also win her the heart of Prince Naveen. This clearly conveys the idea that a woman’s worth and what makes her beautiful is not superficial looks but instead her brain. The Princess and the Frog (dir.2009 by Ron Clements and John Musker) uses the power of food and Tiana’s skill and ambition to cook to illustrate the idea that a working woman is beautiful.
Throughout the movie there are multiple scenes where food exercises its power to bring people together by highlighting each person’s important qualities, specifically skill. One of these examples is in the scene with Mama Odie, who is a voodoo priestess trying to turn the two frogs back into humans. During this scene, Mama Odie is making gumbo and starts to sing a song where she says it “don’t matter what you look like; don’t matter what you wear” (1:03:08) but that you have to dig to try and discover what you really need. During the song, Mama Odie and Tiana go over to the gumbo, which magically turns into a reflection of Tiana cooking with her Dad who shared her dream of opening a restaurant and taught her the importance of working hard. The gumbo pot is framed in such a way that it looks like a crystal ball seeing into the past illustrating the food’s psychic powers. Mama Odie is trying to remind Tiana that sharing your skill and ambition with a person, like she once did with her father, can foster a deep love connection, which is what she should ultimately strive for.
In addition to the power of food, the film portrays the beauty of hard work through Tiana’s skill and ambition to cook. Throughout the film, Tiana is contrasted with her friend, Charlotte La Bouff who seemingly is obsessed with finding a prince for a husband. We see the contrast in the first scene of the movie where Charlotte swoons over the Princess and the Frog fairytale while Tiana is grossed out by the frog. Instead of seeking a husband, she preoccupies her time with working extra shifts to save for a restaurant. Charlotte’s character, who puts more effort into her appearance, represents the stereotypical way to attract a man; however, Prince Naveen is first attracted to Tiana when she shows her superb ability to mince mushrooms for the swamp gumbo. He also appreciates the fact that Tiana pushes him to try mincing himself, seeing that he has felt useless after being cut off from his parents. This reinforces the idea that talent and skill are also attractive and that finding someone who sees value in your abilities is important.
Tiana’s character exhibits the significance of talent and hard work throughout the film. It is clear that she doesn’t rely on fairytales or wishing stars to make her dreams come true but rather hard work and ambition. Not only are these valued traits to be a good person, but it they are also important when it comes to finding love, which is expressed through the power of food and determination in The Princess and the Frog.
The Princess and the Frog. Dir. Ron Clements and John Musker. Perf. Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David. Walt Disney Pictures, 2009. DVD.