Disney’s first Latina princess, featured in the movie “Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess,” has received backlash as well as support from media outlets, especially the Latino community. Is Disney’s new princess a milestone for Latinos or a culturally irrelevant character?
Disney’s spokeswoman provided a recent statement to CNN to help clarify what exactly makes “Princess Sofia” Latina:
“The range of characters in ‘Sofia the First’ — and the actors who play them — are a reflection of Disney’s commitment to diverse, multicultural and inclusive storytelling, and the wonderful early reaction to ‘Sofia’ affirms that commitment. In the story, Sofia’s mother, Queen Miranda, was born in a fictitious land, Galdiz, a place with Latin influences. Miranda met Sofia’s father, Birk Balthazar, who hailed from the kingdom of Freezenberg, and together they moved to Enchancia, where Sofia was born.”
“Sofia the First” is a television movie and series set to debut November 18 on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior, aimed at children ages 2-7. Sofia is a regular little girl whose life changes when her mother marries the king. Ariel Winter from “Modern Family” will voice Sofia and Sara Ramirez from “Grey’s Anatomy” will voice Queen Miranda.
When news first hit in December 2011 that Disney was going to introduce its new and much younger princess, there was no mention of Sofia’s Latina background, let alone that her mother was from “a place with Latin influences,” until this week.
Yet this week, Disney announced that Sofia was indeed Latina.
As reported by Entertainment Weekly, a blogger on a press tour of the movie’s production offices asked why Sofia’s mother, Miranda, had a darker complexion than the other characters.
That led to the big reveal: “She is Latina,” said Jamie Mitchell, executive producer.
According the the vice president of Disney Junior original programming, “We never actually call it out.”
“It’s sort of a matter-of-fact situation rather than an overt thing.”
However, this isn’t the first time there is controversy surrounding one of Disney’s princesses. In 2009, “The Princess and the Frog” received criticism from parents and the media for being set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, its voodoo references and Disney’s first African-American princess, Tiana, falling in love with a Caucasian prince. Most agree Princess Tiana was a step in the right direction, but many said there was still work to be done.
Some Latinos applauded Disney’s new milestone and welcomed her with open arms on Twitter stating, “#Disney comes out with its first “#Latina Princess.” Its about time. It is 2012. #Hispanics” and “#Disney finally comes out with a #Latina princess”
Some criticized what they saw as a lack of cultural signifiers or ethnic identity in the Sofia character.
“If Disney were truly to finally step out and directly cater to the Latino community that has been crying out for decades for a Latina princess to represent our girls,” said Ana Flores, blogger for Spanglishbaby, “She would be as Latina as Tiana is black or as Pocahontas is Indian-American.”
Alex Nogales, president and CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a nonprofit organization that promotes Latino equality in the entertainment industry, believes the Latino community needs more heroes right now that are very identifiable.
“Latinos are taking the blame for everything that is wrong with America. This is not a time to pussyfoot around. If you’re going to promote this to the public, and Latinos in particular, do us a favor and make it a real Latina.”