So, Disney's first maybe Latina princess is, in fact, not. She's not Hispanic, either. Well, she might be from a Spanish-speaking country, but even that is not known for sure. Enchancia, the fictional country from which her mother hails, is loosely based on Spain, and therefore she's sort-of half-Spanish but who can say for sure? Certainly not Disney. "What's important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world," said Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of original programming and general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide. "All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures." Because why would you want to do make princesses at all real? Then they might have to be more like fully functional human beings, instead of these animated Precious Moments figurines. No fun!
In a post on the Disney Junior Worldwide Facebook page, Kanter said that most importantly, Sofia's world reflects the ethnically diverse world we live in "but it is not OUR world, it is a fairytale and storybook world that we hope will help spur a child's imagination."
Way to stand for nothing, per usual, Disney. I know there is no way to make a character "look" Latina or Hispanic and even these terms for ethnicity can be problematic (btw, this is how I understand race and ethnicity so that we're all on the same page, at least for this post) but the point is, there just isn't enough representation (or in some cases, any representation) of races or ethnicities that differ from normative whiteness. Aren't there enough representation of this experience in media? Don't we want to see something more than the dominant narrative? I'm just getting so tired of it, it's not that interesting anymore. I've seen enough of this shit to last me a lifetime and I'm ready for some new stories, NEXT!
I know Disney isn't gonna solve this issue with one TV movie aimed at five year olds, but you know, they put themselves in the spotlight with the mishandling of Sofia, and they are, after all, one of the biggest media companies in the world. And, don't you know the children are our future? Plus, they're supposedly very interested in spurring children's imaginations; you know what inspires and excites? Different perspectives, unique experiences! I know that sounds trite but to see a variety of shapes, sizes, accents, and colors up on that screen is a powerful lesson, and one that we should fight for.
Craig Gerber, co-executive producer/writer on the project says, "Princess Sofia is a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia."
What's the point of having a princess who's living in a world that's so similar to our own, and just ignoring the potentially compelling comments about the real world. Which is the world that real girls live in, yes. If she's of mixed-heritage, make her of real mixed-heritage. The truth will come out in your richer, more complex story in a way that girls can relate to in a more authentic way. Yes, even if it is a Disney princess story meant for kids. How it is now, it's like A Song of Ice and Fire lite — and I think I could argue that against less informed fans of the book — because that's strictly a fantasy kingdom that adheres to many very rigid gender roles. And why is everyone so damn white? Isn't that shit supposed to be straight-up on a different planet at a different time? I feel like the Disney princess situation is similar in that it's all fantasy but it does reflect a lot of about the world we live in. Particularly, the wide variety of people who are routinely ignored, erased, or altered in very real, powerful, and unfortunate ways. I'd much rather watch a story that's firmly grounded in my world — yes, even an escapist princess story — than any ridiculousness that's set in fucking Enchancian.
Disney can get away with this nonsense with six year olds, but there is a price, and it's often the slow chipping away of that six year old self-esteem. I hope they see their adult audience is increasingly annoyed with their lack of commitment to true diversity, and that adults are the ones who control the purse strings and the remote controls — at least, that's the hope, although that's another bag of Barbies to sift through on another day. They could start in their own backyard — Disney's headquarters are in Los Angeles, CA, home to 4.8 million "Hispanic" people, as of 2011 (sorry, going with Census numbers and language here, as problematic as it is, just to give you an idea). I, for one, would love to see a princess that looks like my dark-skinned Mexican-American niece - and, judging from the fact that she's going as Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place, son, look it up) for Halloween — I think she would, too.