The term “whitewashing” has come into popularity after anti-racism activists stuck a name to a long-existing phenomenon. Whitewashing, or the act of lightening a character’s skin or replacing them with a white character, has occurred in many big-name franchises.
Avatar: The Last Airbender saw a whitewashing debacle after the brown-skinned siblings Katara and Sokka were cast as white actors for the live action film. More recently, Scarlett Johansson has received massive backlash for accepting a role originally held by an Japanese character.
In the most recent trailer for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph 2, the Disney princesses make guest appearances during a sleepover. Among these princesses was an unfamiliar face. The design for Princess Tiana, the first black princess from the 2009 film, The Princess and the Frog, didn’t look quite right. Her skin was lightened several shades, her nose was slimmed down, and her hair had been adjusted from black to brown.
As expected, fans were displeased with the change. Many black activists protested the whitewashing of the only black princess, and demanded that she be returned to her original design. According to Telegraph, they got through to Disney. Tiana’s design was restored to its original form — which involved darkening her skin, changing her hair, and re-shaping her face.
Big news. Because of COC members and convos with @DisneyAnimation, Princess Tiana has been restored to her original depiction. Now when Black girls watch #WreckItRalph2, they’ll see Tiana and other princess of color that actually looks like them on screen #BlackGirlMagic pic.twitter.com/4ZPJm4aZyz
— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) September 20, 2018
The original petition, made by the organization Color of Change, explained the complaint.
“Princess Tiana looks nothing like her original character. She is shown here with Eurocentric features; a slimmer nose, loose curly hair and a significantly lighter skin tone than her previous depictions. This is unacceptable. Yet again, Disney made the choice to whitewash an image that represents us. They’ve totally removed and replaced Princess Tiana’s full lips, dark skin and kinky hair. By doing so, they are showing us that they don’t care about reflecting the diversity of the Black community.”
After the changes were made, many fans rejoiced that their desires were heard and listened to. One of Color of Change’s campaign directors released a statement praising Disney for taking responsibility and adjusting Tiana’s features.
“By redrawing Princess Tiana — Disney’s first and only Black princess — in ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ as she was in Princess and the Frog, Disney has shown its commitment to addressing the concerns of Color Of Change members and the Black community. Disney is an incredibly powerful and influential company and its decisions have far-reaching implications for other companies that provide entertainment for children and adults around the world.”