Disney finally decided to get its act together and introduce an African princess, but she will be… a white American? The announcement of the storyline for The Princess of North Sudan was met with heavy criticism online and in mass media. The story is said to be based on an American father who wanted to make his daughter’s dream of becoming a princess come true. Cute, right? Except, not really.
Native Virginian Jeremiah Heaton went on a mission to find unclaimed land to declare it his kingdom, thus making his daughter a princess. After a failed attempt at annexing Antarctic land, he stumbled upon Bir Tawil, a disputed trapezoidal territory in the Egyptian-Sudanese border. Granted, even though neither Sudan nor Egypt wanted the land, it was still part of a heated border dispute concerning Hala’ib, a neighboring piece of land that has rich soil. The dispute is about which historical borders to retain that would determine which country got Hala’ib and which got Bir Tawil, Hala’ib obviously being the preferred choice by both nations. Still, the land will belong to one of the two states. But Heaton went ahead and planted a flag to claim it for his family.
The problem with Heaton’s actions was that it mirrored what his forefathers did — claiming land to themselves just because they wanted to with no concern about who it affected. He explained, “I founded the nation in love for my daughter.” Does that change the fact that it was still Columbusing, the act of “discovering” land which was already discovered? He also stated that he will turn it into an agricultural wonder and “end world hunger.” This was simply the repackaging of colonialism and the Western savior complex in a cutesy way. And Disney is making a movie out of it. Twitter user Slycivilian1 describes the relationship between art and imperialism.
Disney scouted out Black List writer Stephany Folsom and producer Morgan Spurlock to create a movie centered around the father-daughter relationship set in a fantasy world. When Folsom was confronted on Twitter about taking on such an offensive project, she responded to reassure that the story was misrepresented in the media.
However, she seemed to pay no attention to any valid criticism.
The Princess of North Sudan tag was flooded with justifiably angry reactions.
Another glaring issue here is that there is no Sudanese representation in a movie about Sudan. A region called North Sudan already exists. It is inhabited by North Sudanese people of hundreds of ethnicities. Was that not interesting enough? Here’s what Sudanis had to say about all this nonsense:
There’s no way to describe how it feels to come from a country no one knows anything about and the people that do know still don’t know anything aside whatever negative coverage the media blasts. Most Sudanis can’t even go directly to Sudan because of U.S. sanctions. There are Sudanis who’ve left and never gone back despite wanting to. Both invisible and far too visible for their liking. – Sudanese blogger, Anonymous
As a Sudanese person, I was enraged beyond words when I heard of this movie. Sudan never gets any love except for when speaking of war and famine. There was already heat when Heaton decided to arrogantly plant his flag, but now they’re celebrating it? This movie will contain racist, colonial, orientalist undertones (as all Disney movies do), complete erasure of Sudanese voices, and the celebration of neocolonialism. I love my country and I will not stand to see its name tarnished with this train wreck of a movie. I feel like Margaret Farenger speaks for all us here:
I am personally boycotting this movie and I urge you all to do the same.