Cine Latino: Does Disney's First Latina Princess Look Caucasian? Latinos React

Cine Latino: Does Disney's First Latina Princess Look Caucasian? Latinos React

Oct 19, 2012

Cine Latino covers, well, all things relating to Latino culture and the movies, every Friday.

Since the release of Walt Disney's animated version of Snow White over 70 years ago, only 10 Disney princesses have been introduced and none have been Hispanic... until now. Disney announced yesterday its latest addition to the Disney franchise, Sofia, the first Latina princess. She will join the ranks of other non-white princesses like Jasmin, Mulan, Pocahontas and Tiana, the first black princess introduced three years ago in The Princess and the Frog.

While adorable to look at, the first images of Sofia have caused a bit of a stir as criticism surrounding the accurate portrayal of her ethnicity has surfaced. It's Sofia's light skin, reddish hair and blue eyes that have people in a tizzy whether or not she looks Latina. I will say this: Princess Sofia does not look like me. I'm Salvadoran with dark long hair, brown eyes and I look tan most of the year. She does, however, remind me of my Argentinian classmate in elementary school and my Cuban friend in high school. They were both blondes with gorgeous blue eyes.

Would I like to see a princess that somewhat resembles me?  Ummm… yes. I think we all like to see a bit of us in larger-than-life characters. But what makes us Latinas is not our skin or eye color but our cultural upbringing. So the real question here is what makes Sofia Latina? Certainly her background, half-Enchancian and half-Galdizian (both fictional towns) sound more European than Latin American. According to Entertainment Weekly, Sofia is a born commoner who steps into the royal life when her mother marries a king. A TV movie and TV series will follow Sofia as she adjusts to her new life and step-siblings.

Disney wasn't even promoting Sofia as a Latina princess until news broke yesterday when executives at Disney finally admitted it. "She is Latina," said Executive Producer Jamie Mitchell to a group of reporters at a recent press tour. "It’s sort of a matter-of-fact situation rather than an overt thing."

 "We never actually call it out," said Joe D’Ambrosia, vice president of Disney Junior original programming, to EW. "When we go into schools [to talk to young students about the show], what I find fascinating is that every girl thinks that they’re Sofia."

Sofia will be voiced by Modern Family's Ariel Winter and young girls will be able to follow her adventures in less than a month. Her TV movie, Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess, is set to air November 18 on the Disney channel followed by a TV series sometime next year.

So why isn’t Disney promoting Sofia as a Latina princess? Does it even matter that she's Latina?

At a time when Hispanics make up 16.3% of the total United States population -- that's over 50 million people -- and are considered the highest-growing ethnic group, why not create a character that young Latinas can identify with? Let's not forget Dora the Explorer's mega success.

Given that, yes, Latinas all look different, and if there isn't anything within the show to identify Sofia's ethnicity, will kids even get that she's Latina at all? What are your thoughts?

Here are the latest reactions from Latinos via social media:

@KattMarii: This is Disney's new "Latina" princess named Sofia...mmmhmm

‏@carolusa1: I am a proud Latina. Blond, green eyes. Am I less of a Latina because of that?? What am I then...? As far as I know, we come in different color and shape.

@Jorge Armando Pratt: So wait, do Hispanic/Latino characters need to be tanned and have an accent, or else they'll be deemed "fake" and un-relatable to their Hispanic/Latino audience? I find that conclusion pretty racist. There are plenty of little girls in Mexico who look like Sofía, just as there are blonde ones, brunette ones, and, yes, even tanned ones. Reminding the readers of Cameron Díaz' ancestry, only to later claim that Disney "denied girls the opportunity to see a princess who looks like it's them." Are we expecting a stereotypical "Latino look"? It doesn't exactly build a strong case.

@Carol Cain: I will not knock down having a Latino of any kind positively represented in the media. Race is not what makes us "more" or "less" Latino. My "problem" is that this look is what I have always grown up with as being THE look of Latinos everywhere. For the record this character looks like my mami, like most Latino TV personalities do. They've just never looked like me or my darker sisters.

@Melanie Edwards: For me the issue is not so much the look, though it is an issue when consistently the look portrayed in media of Latinos is that of a fair-skinned Latino, but the issue is more that my kids will not know she is Latina. No one did until someone said she was. Will there be cultural or language references for us to identify with? No clips advertising the show have shown any. It seems really odd that “she’s Latina” but no signs of it are seen in the actual show (so far).

@Francisco Sanchez: I am very aware as a Chicano that our physical characteristics cover a wide range because of our unique historical context. I really don't have an issue here with the way she looks, but The bigger issue here is that Disney also stated that there was nothing within the context of the show that makes her ethnicity apparent. So what kind of connection are our children supposed to make exactly? This is the biggest type of copout, especially when you consider that every other princess has been represented within the context of her own culture!

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