Not Funko Pop Whitewashing One of the Only Non-White Disney Princes
Look what they did to my boy.
Update 1/27/2023, 5:00PM EST:
Funko released new images, but we’re still pretty suspicious that the physical Funko is actually changed.
I have complicated feelings about Funkos and the Funko phenomenon, but I own a handful (mostly gifts that I love) and cherish them. Among the few I’ve kept over the years, my favorites include Amphibian Man (from The Shape of Water), Ava DuVernay because of course, and—even though I never choose him—Webber (Don’t Starve Together). Still, I found myself glancing at the company’s new releases and was disappointed to see the newest Princess and The Frog toy among the slew of Funko Fair 2023 announcements.
In this scene, recreating the film’s Down In New Orleans finale, Funko whitewashed the character Naveen. There are many theories as to what Naveen’s race and ethnicity are, with common assertions being SWANA (South West Asian and North African) due to his name and features. However, no reasonable person looks at Naveen and sees a white man. Maybe if you’re looking at the voice actor (Brazilian actor/lawyer Bruno Campos), but the character (including his portrayal on Once Upon A Time by actor Jeff Pierre) is clearly a person of color.
Naveen is one of two non-white canon Disney princes and really the only one with any degree of prince status at the start of the story (unlike Aladdin).
That’s not Naveen, that’s—
I wasn’t the only person that found issues with this rendition of Naveen. Within three hours, Funko took down the post featuring the couple as Prince Eric started to trend across social media platforms. It probably would’ve trended more if people weren’t making jokes and calling him stereotypical white names like Nathan, Neville, and Nigel. Our sister site, We Got This Covered, also found that Funko has a history of whitewashing characters (and people) of color. Just last year, people found a whitewashed Jimmy Hendrix and a pale America Chavez.
Twitter users thought he looked more like Eric from The Little Mermaid. There was a faction of people making jokes that she cheated on Naveen with Eric. Some even saw Prince Christopher from the 1997 Cinderella. Not only does this look like Paolo Montalban, but the cream-colored suit with black pants is just like the ball scene fit. Seeing it as Montalban though … I don’t hate it.
This isn’t even Funko’s first rodeo with lightening Naveen even though it’s certainly worse. If we’re being honest with ourselves, Tiana is also made much lighter. Though at least here she is undeniably Black and unlike her depiction in the original Wreck-It Ralph 2 trailer.
This movie’s legacy doesn’t need more issues
As is, Princess and the Frog invokes many mixed emotions among Black audiences. On the one hand, features the first and only Black Disney princess. The music is amazing, and Tiana is both gorgeous and ambitious. There’s the rare female friendship on-screen, and the animation sequence for Almost There is a stunning homage to one of my favorite artists ever, Harlem Renaissance muralist Aaron Douglas.
However, Tiana is a frog for most of the movie, the film villainizes an already persecuted (and commodified) faith, and her story is a bootstrap narrative. Not just that, but she’s overcoming racism, classism, and sexism while all of this context is made into a subtext that can be wholly left out of the story. Because of how she was written, it’s kinda damned if they address these issues and damned if they don’t.
Naveen is loved as a musically inclined himbo, but also, he’s racially ambiguous and Disney has still failed to depict a Black prince. They didn’t need to do it in 2009 with Naveen, but it’s been 13 years since this film and 86 years since the first Disney princess film (Snow White) was released with no Black princes. There’s absolutely no issue with interracial couples being depicted in media by itself, but this pairing is often fetishized and put on some sort of pedestal right behind white couples. Not much has changed in that regards since this movie was released, and if anything it’s gotten worse via Netflix and the Kenya Barris Industrial Complex (both as separate and united entities.)
This Funko blunder really didn’t need to be making things worse with this poor adaption of these characters, especially Naveen.
(featured image: Disney)
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