Yesterday we learned that Disney was finally ready to introduce their first Latina princess with the introduction of Sofia this Fall. Today we learn that Sofia‘s Latinaness has been stripped from her and that, according to Disney, she is NOT considered a Latina princess after all. While promoting the animated movie Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess, Disney made it crystal clear that Sofia was a Latina character … even if her ethnicity would not be discussed at all in the movie. A storm of backlash erupted and now Disney is backpedaling with a new clarification that, nope, Sofia is not Latina after all. Click below to learn how Sofia went from being Disney‘s first Latina princess to their merely their newest non-Latina princess.
First came the revelation that Disney’s newest princess in the upcoming Disney Channel and Disney Junior TV feature, Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess, is Latina. That was then followed by frustration that the young lady didn’t look Latina enough. Now, it seems as if the situation might be a little more royally complicated, as the Mouse House is suggesting this princess isn’t actually Latina at all. “What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairy-tale girl who lives in a fairy-tale world,” said Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of original programming and general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide, per NBC Latino. “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.” Craig Gerber, a coexecutive producer and writer on the feature, added that as far as Sofia’s ethnicity is concerned, she 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.” Such statements, though, come on the heels of the more straightforward quote that Entertainment Weekly recently attributed to Sofia the First executive producer Jamie Mitchell: “She is Latina.”
What a mess. And what I can’t understand is how this got so out of hand, especially when Disney is usually so good at handing issues like this. I get the whole “Our princesses come from fantasy-land and not the real world” thing but c’mon, we live in a real world where real children want to see themselves represented on TV and in movies. By making a big deal about Sofia being a Latina princess and then going out of their way to make clear they would NOT discuss her Latinaness (especially since the character looks Caucasian), Disney had to know that they were courting controversy. And now, it sounds like, the easiest course of action for the company is to just strip the character of the Latinaness they imposed on her in the first place. Dumb, just dumb. So while there have been Asian, Native American, African American and Arabic Disney princesses, I guess we’ll have to keep on waiting for the first Latina princess. What a damn shame.