Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" gave us the first African-American princess in the studio's history, the first one with a job and, according to Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams, "the sweetest, most sincere romantic comedy to come along in ages." Unfortunately, it also seems to have given a new generation of little girls a bad, old idea: If you kiss a frog, he might turn into a prince.
Technically, unlike the Grimm Fairy Tale it's loosely based on, this one actually teaches you that if you kiss a frog you might turn into one -- which you'd think would be a somewhat less exciting prospect. But outbreaks of salmonella around the country suggest otherwise. Says Liz Neporent at AOL Health, "Inspired by the movie's iconic smooch, young children -- typically girls under 10 -- have kissed or licked live frogs and picked up the disease from bacteria harbored on the frog's skin and guts." Yeesh.
If you're not already cringing, Neporent goes on to detail the additional health hazards of making out with turtles, puppies and kittens. And Anna North at Jezebel has a cautionary tale about playing with dead lizards. "[I]nstead of a fairy tale ending, all I got was really, really sick," she writes. "While the maxim that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince may be lame as a metaphor, it's even worse when taken literally." Point taken.
Is it really fair to blame this on Princess Tiana, though? I mean, the Grimms started it (in print, anyway) in the early 1800s, and if that annoying dating maxim weren't still so ubiquitous, this movie might never have been made. Neporent says at least 50 little girls have ended up in the ER thanks to "an amphibious lip lock" recently, but I wonder how much that differs from any other year. Between the well-known frog-kissing legend and normal childhood fascination with small, slimy creatures, I'd be surprised if there's been a huge spike.
But to the extent that children's media does influence their behavior, at least we can be grateful that Disney didn't go with the original story. In an annotated version of "The Frog Prince," Heidi Anne Heiner of Sur la Lune Fairy Tales points out that "The earliest versions of the story have the princess committing an act of violence which breaks the spell instead of the now famous kiss. Most often the frog is thrown against the wall, but in some versions he is beheaded or his skin is burnt." That's ... less appealing. Of course, so is getting potentially fatal bacteria all over your lips. So maybe this is one time when giving into your kid's demands for a movie tie-in toy is a really good idea.