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Parasecoli – A Taste of Louisiana: Mainstreaming Blackness Through Food in The Princess and the Frog

Parasecoli, Fabio.“ A Taste of Louisiana: Mainstreaming Blackness Through Food in The Princess and the Frog” Journal of African American Studies Vol 14, No. 4 (2012): 450-468.

Keywords: Food, Cooking, Race, Film, Animation, Pop culture

According Fabio, this article argues that in the film, The Princess and the Frog, food is used to mitigate the presence on screen of the first African-American female protagonist in a Disney movie and how they made her more acceptable to mainstream audience through the use of food.  Fabio Parasceoli is an Associate Professor of Food Studies for the New School of Public Engagement. His areas of expertise are food, politics, gender and race in the media. His own research focuses on the interconnection between food, media, and politics. His latest work is his 2008 book entitled Bite Me! Food and Pop Culture. Because of his educational, professional and research experience, I strongly believe he is qualified and is an expert in his field.

The goal of this article was to take a closer look at how the use of Creole and black culinary traditions in the movie, The Princess and the Frog, are used as a way to mediate the protagonist’s blackness, while at the same time defusing any possible anxiety the audience may have about the black components of the culture in Louisiana post hurricane Katrina. Parasceoli said, that the producers of the movie used what he called, culinary tourism, as a controlled and safe way to negotiate race in film and also exploring cultural tropes about black women in a white dominated society.

In the film, they used gumbo, a staple dish of Louisiana, as a way to represent an entire race, ethnicity, or nationality. I found it very interesting what Parasceoli said why they chose gumbo as opposed to other dishes from the state. He explained that filmmakers wanted to have a staple dish that was intriguing but not menacing or intimidating to its mainstream audience. He said that other dishes like collard greens or ham hocks would have been to racially connoted to be recognizable to a mainstream audience. He explains that the movie allows its mainstream audience to explore the world of the “other” without having their own privileged questioned. This becomes very obvious in the film because the main character is a cook, which identifies her as working class. Parasceoli argues that this neutralizes any possible discomfort caused by the presence of a black main character. In addition to the latter, he sheds light upon the fact that in the film the depicted a very common theme about the use of food in the African-American community. It showed that the use of food in the African-American community underscores the cultural and emotional relevance of food as an expression of ethnic identity as well as, family centered heteronormative values.

Overall, I believe that this piece of scholarly work was very eye opening and very intriguing as well. It offered an insightful look into a component of  American culture that has for a large period of time been overlooked. I found this piece to be very powerful. It is very intriguing how this articles was able to shed light upon a culture and also how food can be used to explaining things such as race, class, and culture. I think that this piece was a great addition to other scholarly writings about food communication. I strongly believe that this piece ties in well with pieces that we had to read this week about food and culture. The film gave its audience the experience to dive into another culture, while also not alienating its mainstream audience.

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