noun: a black religious cult practiced in the Caribbean and the southern US, combining elements of Roman Catholic ritual with traditional African magical and religious rites, and characterized by sorcery and spirit possession.
The use of the Voodoo religion in The Princess and the Frog was highly critiqued for its negative portrayal through Dr. Facilier. Moreover, associating New Orleans with such Voodoo magic is a racist stereotype many seemed to find offensive.
One critic shared her concerns:
“The movie was dark. The stereotypical voodoo, black magic portrayal was in- sulting. When white Disney characters are displayed in there fantasy land, it is ‘‘white magic’’—stars and sparkles and pretty flowers and blue skies, magic wands, and fairy godmothers, etc. Ours, on the other hand, was ‘‘black’’ magic, dark shadows and ghosts and demons lurking in the shadows. That was awful; there was not a good spirit surrounding the movie at all. The characters were all dark. It was not uplifting, and it did not hold a lot of the kids’ interest. In fact, it was very disturbing [to me] even as an adult.”
(Cheryl Lynn in Lester’s “Politics of Being a First”)
Clips of Dr. Facilier performing voodoo with his “friends on the other side.”
Friends on the Other Side
Friends on the Other Side Reprise (RIP Dr. Facilier)
Well, defenders of Disney argue the use of “good voodoo” helped to offset this dark, scary portrayal of voodoo.
Enter, Mama Otie…
Dig A Little Deeper
Sarita McCoy Gregory’s Disney’s Second Line critique of the movie highlights the positive portrayal of Voodoo through Mama Otie:
“Disney infuses its colorblind message in the body of a voodoo priestess, Mama Odie. Mama Odie is blind, living as a maroon deep in the bayou in harmony with a variety of swamp creatures. Disney gifts Mama Odie with “vision” that transcends color and class. Mama Odie’s gospel-inspired theme song “Dig a Little Deeper” pushes Tiana to follow her heart as well as her dream. In fact, Mama Odie admonishes both frogs to strive for balance (she encourages Naveen to have more self-control and Tiana to open her heart to love).”
(Sarita McCoy Gregory)
So, did the good portrayal of Mama Otie’s Voodoo outweigh the evil of Dr. Facilier’s?