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Is Princess Sofia "Latina Enough"?
Where is Enchancia Anyway, And Do They Serve Tamales There?
Disney's newest princess, Sofia, is featured in the TV movie "Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess," which made its premiere in November 2012. But Disney has faced backlash from some advocacy groups who claim that the character, who has been said to be "Latina" by Disney executives, is not representative enough of the Hispanic population.
The character Princess Sofia, seen in the picture to the right, has prominent blue eyes and fair skin, with brown hair. According to Craig Gerber, co-executive producer of "Sofia The First," the character of Sofia is a "mixed-heritage princess in a fairytale world," and that her mother and birth-father are from make believe kingdoms which were inspired by Spain and Scandinavia, respectively. Princess Sofia was born and grew up in Enchancia, which is a "make-believe 'melting-pot' kingdom" inspired by the British Isles. Disney claims that the character was never meant to be "explicitly Latina."
But none of this is good-enough for America's National Hispanic Media Coalition, who intend to meet Disney studio executives to discuss the character. Lisa Navarrete, spokewoman for The National Council Of La Raza, claims that Disney is now "back-pedalling" and that "They've done such a good job in the past when they've introduced Native American, African-American and Asian princesses. They made a big deal out of it, and there was a lot of fanfare, but now they're sort of scrambling. It's unusual because Disney has been very good about Latino diversity."
Navarrette goes on to say that "Little girls look to these characters to see themselves represented....If they don't see themselves, it makes a difference. It would be nice to see Disney make a full-out push for a Latina princess, whether it's 'Sofia the First' or not."
News Flash: Not All Latinos Look The Same
I think Navarette would like to take us back to the strong stereotypes of characters such as Speedy Gonzalez, which were caricatures more than characters. I don't know how many Latinos she has met or how much of the outside world she has seen, but, amazingly, not all of us look the same. My son has blue eyes and fair skin, and he is 100% Mexican-American like his mom and dad. So, by his physical appearance, is he not "Latino" enough? What about all of the Latinos who live in South America? Plenty of light skin and eyes of various colors there, and maybe even some blonde hair once in a while. Would these "advocacy" groups be happier if Princess Sofia had a thick accent, and wore a sombrero instead of a tiara, maybe worked in a car wash, and got chased around with chanclas by her mother when she misbehaved?
But the issue of race representation shouldn't be a concern. We need to let our children latch onto the characters they choose and not dictate that they be of a certain race or ethnicity. When I grew up, my favorite fictional character was Robocop, who is a cyborg, part man, part machine. Nothing about him was Mexican, not even when he was a human police officer (before he got ripped to shreds by shotgun blasts.) I wasn't drawn to him because of anything involving ethnicity. Instead, the universal characteristics of integrity, good versus evil, and a strong sense of duty were what appealed to me. Oh, and his gun was awesome too, and he was made out of friggin' kevlar! But the point is, I wasn't watching him thinking in terms of white or black or Latino or Asian or anything like that. Children watch cartoons to escape their worlds, not because they are a mirror reflection of whatever their real-world might look like. And Latinos are so diverse, that to draw all of us with the same features and colors wouldn't do justice to our culture or heritage.