Let me start by saying that my girl and I couldn’t be more excited about next month’s premiere of Disney Junior’s Sofia the First. I first wrote about her on SpanglishBaby back in June and just with that sneak peek my girl was hooked. What little girl wouldn’t love the story of a girl turned princess?
But I’ll tell you one thing, as much as we already love Sofia, never for one second did the thought cross my mind that she would be a Latina or even marketed as such. Never. Now, all of a sudden, the media is exploding with the “news” that Sofia is in fact a Latina. There’s even a direct quote on Entertainment Weekly by executive producer Jaime Mitchell saying “She is Latina.” But when VP of Disney Junior original programming, Joe D’Ambrosia, is asked about it he doesn’t admit or deny anything: “We never actually call it out….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.”
And that is precisely my point. EVERY GIRL THINKS THAT THEY’RE SOFIA! My girl is Latina and a quarter Dutch, and she actually looks a lot like Sofia. But, again, not because of cultural identity, but because this is a princess with true emotions and a deepness like no other.
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, she would be as Latina as Tiana is black or as Pocahontas is Native American. In fact, I was at the blogger tour in Pixar and behind-the-scenes of the making of Brave in April. There I learned they went great lengths to make sure the Scottish culture was represented as authentically as possible. Don’t you think they would do the same if they were finally representing the Hispanic culture? Don’t you think Disney would shout it out to the world, especially to the Hispanic media if she really was Latina? Really?
I’ve sat down with Disney Junior executives in intimate settings and even was hired as a consultant for their Hispanic Heritage spots — and even appeared in one with my girl! — because they truly are concerned about doing it right for our community. Never, not once, did the issue of Sofia being Latina come up. Don’t you think they would have been reaching out to Latina bloggers with that message? They know we would have been all over it.
I really think Disney is just saying she could be Latina, if that’s what you want her to be.
She’s from the storybook lands of Enchancia and Galdizian. Her mother is voiced by the fabulous Sara Ramirez, who is a Latina, but doesn’t have to be as an animated character. Sofia herself is voiced by Modern Family‘s Ariel Winter, not a Latina.
However, what really concerns me the most is that the Latino community is really buying this. Are we really that desperate to see ourselves portrayed that we’ll take a quote saying she’s meant to be Latina, but nowhere is our culture represented, and applaud Disney for it?
I applaud Disney all the time. This doesn’t change my admiration for everything they do nor does it diminish our excitement over Sofia the First. I just want to be objective and it just doesn’t feel right for me to promote this as Disney’s first Latina princess ever because I just know they can, and my gut and experience tells me they want, to do it better and do it right.
No, mi gente, I don’t think Sofia is our first Disney Latina princess.
I have sent several emails to my contacts at Disney Junior for an interview to get their opinion. I will follow up this post as soon as I hear back.
What do you think? Is Sofia the first Latina Disney Princess or are we just trying really hard to make her that? What would your Latina Princess look like?
I finally got the official response from a Disney spokesperson when I asked them if Sofia is in fact meant to be a Latina and marketed as such, was this:
The range of characters in Sofia the First’ — and the actors who play them — are a reflection of Disney’s commitment to diverse, multi-cultural 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.]
As you can see, there’s still no confirmation that Sofia is in fact Latina. Maybe the thought did cross their mind one day, but for this particular princess it made better sense to make her a precious girl that can speak to animals and that any girl could identify with?
Having her mom, Queen Miranda, being born in a place with “Latin influences” means absolutely nothing to me — a bilingual and bi-cultural Latina.
Of course, I responded to the Disney spokesperson with even more questions and a request for an interview. Will report back once I get more.
****Update #2 on 10/19
Disney published two comments on Facebook and cleared up the question of whether Sofia is a Latina princess or not. READ THE STATEMENTS AND MY REACTION TO THEM HERE.
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