How the First Black Disney Princess Changes Everything

Disney has been working on The Princess and the Frog, featuring its first black princess, for over three years now. It's a happy coincidence that the film arrives during the first term of our first black president -- but for little girls, seeing a Disney princess who looks like them might be even more life-changing. Here's why.

In 1954, psychologist Kenneth Clark helped make the case for school desegregation with something called the "doll test." He showed black children both a white doll and a black doll, and asked them which was nicer, which was the bad doll, which they liked better. Almost every black child ascribed good qualities to the white doll and bad qualities to the black doll. The results clearly showed that black children were feeling the impact of being separate and not equal.

Fast-forward to 2005. A high school student performed the doll test with kids in her own community, and posted the video on YouTube. Shockingly, most of the black children preferred the white doll. And this is backed up by statistics: White dolls sell better, even among children of color.

But that was before the Disney princesses diversified. The Disney Princess brand is wildly popular among little girls, many of whom haven't seen a new princess in their lifetimes (the last one was 1998's Mulan). Millions of kids will see The Princess and the Frog for that reason alone. And if they like it -- and early reviews are very, very positive -- they'll want the toys. In fact, the toys are already flying off the shelves for the holiday season. Suddenly, millions of black girls are asking for a black doll for Christmas -- and so are millions of white girls.

According to critics, race is rarely spoken about in the movie, which focuses instead on class differences, and the way appearances can be deceiving. But that doesn't matter to the girls of the Obama age, who will simply internalize the message that a princess can be any color. And if The Princess and the Frog makes lots and lots of money, you can bet that other Hollywood studios will be internalizing the message too.

It's a new era, ladies. And dreams sometimes do come true.

Plus: Holiday movies we can't wait to see!

Do you think there's enough ethnic diversity in kids' entertainment? Chime in below!

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