Monday, October 22, 2012

Disney's Princess Sofia + Stereotypes = What Do You Think?

So. You may or may not have heard the latest over at Camp Disney--they've unveiled their newest princess. Her name's Princess Sofia, and she's the star of her very own movie, Sofia The First: Once Upon A Princess. According to the movie's producers, Sofia is of Hispanic heritage on her mother's side. 

And she looks like this:

And she's voiced by actress Ariel Winter, who stars in one of my absolute fave TV shows, Modern Family:

As you can see, these ladies are both Caucasian. Princess Sofia, in particular, has blue eyes. Now here's the thing: I'm Puerto Rican. I've lived in Puerto Rico my whole life, and yes, there are white, blue-eyed Puerto Ricans (if this shocks you, then holy smoke bombs, you need to get out more). Seeing white, blue-eyed peeps from other Latin-American countries doesn't surprise me at all, either. That being said, there's been some serious backlash over Princess Sofia's appearance. Her critics believe she doesn't look Hispanic. To add fuel to the fire, the movie won't address her Hispanic heritage as A Thing That Matters, but as A Thing That Is Simply Part Of Who She Is And Won't Be Dwelt On.   

Now I leave the floor open to you: whether it's in Disney movies/books/TV shows, do you prefer the main character's heritage to be on the forefront of their story, or are you okay with it not dwelling on their heritage too much? Can you provide examples to better illustrate your preference and why it works for you? Thanks in advance!

Also, don't forget: you can still submit your questions for our New Year's Revisions Conference Agent Q&A!!! AND instead of just one question per person, you can submit as many you want! Just make sure you get them in before October 31st!!


  1. Depends if it's important to the story or not. She doesn't have to look like the stereotype (heck most Scandinavians aren't blue-eyed blonds), but she had better have the correct accent for the region she grew up in.

  2. It depends on the story, I suppose. What I wouldn't want to see is them doing it badly, i.e., shoehorning her ethnicity into a story 'just because'.

  3. Some stories are about ethnic identity, and some are not. It doesn't have to be a huge part of every story or the defining characteristic for me. Among kids' cartoons, Maya and Miguel, Dora, and Diego all feature the characters' Hispanic heritage prominently. Yet Dora and Diego always show the wide variation in Hispanic appearance, featuring characters with hair from blond to black, all textures and styles. For example, Dora's teacher is blonde and green-eyed, but speaks accented English. Diego and his parents have medium brown hair and his sister Alicia has green eyes.

    In Martha Speaks on PBS, Helen's mother is Hispanic and speaks accented English, but I don't think her ethnicity is otherwise addressed. Helen has fair skin and red hair like her dad, and her little brother Jakey and cousin Carolina have darker completions. I like that it's not a big part of the story -- the big cultural distinction is between the humans and Martha, the talking dog.

    My daughters are excited about Sofia, and the show looks pretty good. Anyway, since she is a fairy-tale princess in a European-type kingdom, I would expect the Hispanic heritage is European Spanish, not Latin American.

  4. I'd find it depressing if every story featuring a given ethnicity dealt with the same subject matter. When heritage is not central to the plot, I don't like to see it treated like window dressing - it should provide context.

  5. I hadn't heard about this movie. I'm glad there will be another princess movie, but I hope the decision to downplay her heritage is based on careful thought and not because they're afraid of what the audience might think. I thought they handled the story of Fa Mulan decently. But yeah, I agree that tacking on heritage (rather than addressing it in a deeper way) isn't a good thing either.

  6. Lots of good points made already. From a marketing standpoint, I'll say they were smart; Sofia (Sophia) being the number one girl name this year in the US. (My baby's name.)

    My question is, why even mention her ancestry if it isn't important to the story?


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