Disney Now Says That Sofia Is NOT A Latina Princess After All

WTF?!

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.

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  1. superjosh

    LOL at bitchy Cinderella!!!!

  2. A missed opportunity and p.r. mistake. From a business standpoint, they are missing a major population. From a childhood standpoint, how dare they? All around: gross.

  3. lori paster

    Oh this is annoying. It is a non-issue made into an issue by annoying bloggers. By Disney’s own description, she is PART latina. But people are complaining that is not real enough? Even in the real world, we don’t have these pure ethnicities anymore. We have girls like Sofia, a mix of ethnicities raised in a countries where all cultures are mixed in such a way that many of the differences are only subtle. Sounds about right to me. Stupid people need to just stop making issues where there are none. According to Disney, she would be half Spanish, not even Latin American, so would people complain she wasn’t latin enough because she is a different type of latina? Uggggg.

    • Latinos are inherently mixed, by definition: European, African , Natives mix. I guess the initial frustration stemmed from the fact that Disney DID say that she was Latina and people seemed to agree, overall, that Sofia didn’t seem to represent said diversity. Now that they said she comes specifically from a Spanish heritage, I guess it makes more sense. TBH, I’m not sure how they could translate “Latinaness” into a princess, though, without falling into some stereotyping.

      To me, being Latina is more about cultural differences than physical attributes, and all Latin cultures are different. I feel like we would need a Caribbean princess, a South American princes, a Central American princess, etc lol Just kidding.

    • I agree. Disney may not have handled completely appropriately but it is the internet and blogs that made it into a bigger deal. Disney had a choice, take the blame for her not being a latina, or take the blame for her not being latina enough (which imo is an offensive idea anyway).

      It reminds me of the Tiana debacle all over again, when people railed at Disney for finally making an african-american Princess and then turning her into a frog for half the movie. They spent more time complaining than celebrating not only the colour of her skin, but what a determined, well rounded, intelligent, beautiful, and better dressed princesses she was. No one is happy and when Disney take strides to add much needed diversity they still get blamed for not doing enough.

    • That’s true. I also know for a fact that there’s a group of Native Americans that aren’t too keen of Disney’s Pocahontas and find her offensive.

  4. “I’m not sure how they could translate “Latinaness” into a princess, though, without falling into some stereotyping.”

    I agree. A person’s ethnicity is far more than how they are drawn or the color of their eyes. It is a part of their culture that affects how they interact with and see the world. While I think there is great benefit that can come with seeing someone like you in films, I think that a child can still be entertained without that. I loved Aladdin, and I am not Arabic, a boy, or genie. I don’t remember that many significant references in Aladdin that would reflect Jasmine’s heritage (other than songs referencing the Sha or midday prayers). Her character was a girl in love with a controling father, which really applies to most cultures. I think most of these movies are pure fantasy, begining to end.

    Disney hasn’t handled this well, but I also think the outrage is unnecessary.

  5. Megan

    My thinking is that they realized they messed-up by calling her their first Latina princess when she doesn’t look it at all, and are now going to make a true Latina princess soon

  6. This is a PR mess. Walt must be rolling in his grave… It’s only a matter of time til everyone will be racially ambiguous.

  7. Ben@pr

    Disney sucks “cojones”. This was a huge mess and poorly handled. They are just not interested in making a Latina princess at all. It’s a shame since Disney is so welcoming of diversity as having openly gay high leveled executives but they can not make a princess of the only ethnicity they haven’t covered yet?

  8. The rep says, ‘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.’

    That sounds like a total cop-out to me. Jasmine, Mulan, and Tiana, for example, are clearly not from magical fantasy worlds. They are from legit real-world locations and their stories reflect that. It’s fine if Sophia is representative of a mixed-race background, or if her origins are supposed to be a bit ambiguous but to imply that that’s ALWAYS how they do things is bs.

    • Dennis

      So you are saying that Aladdin, Mulan, and The Princess and the Frog are accurate representations of Arabia, China, and New Orleans? Really? Hmmm…. This need for everyone to fully identify with a specific Disney character is getting out of hand IMO. Remember when folks just went to see Disney movies because they were fun family entertainment? I do. Now it’s become a social statement every time they release something. Ahhh the good old days…

    • @Dennis — “So you are saying that Aladdin, Mulan, and The Princess and the Frog are accurate representations of Arabia, China, and New Orleans?” I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that it is important for children of color to see themselves represented in media. If all Disney princesses are Caucasian, what does that say to young children of color?

    • Dennis, thanks for bringing this up. If we want we can get into the cultural problematics of non-white Disney characters but that’s a completely different conversation. And an interesting one too. BUT I’m simply pointing out that characters who were clearly from a particular place and of a particular nationality HAVE existed in Disney movies before. Whether or not they were depicted accurately or appropriately or politically correct is another thing. Thus, I found the rep’s statement to be false.

      And yes, for some of us, Disney characters absolutely can be social statements of sorts. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. They’re films and all films– including those meant for children– send a message to their viewers.

    • Dennis

      “And yes, for some of us, Disney characters absolutely can be social statements of sorts.” But does that mean they have to be social statements? I guess I’m in the minority. I just see princesses. I don’t see a Black princess or an Asian princess. I see a princess. Her story is what intrigues me. Not the color of their skin. Perhaps growing up in the Bay Area has me in a bubble in that respect. I personally never looked to cartoons for roll models. They were cartoons to me and nothing more. However I’m not saying that others finding personal inspiration from animated characters are wrong. Just don’t loose sight that they are not real people. If you want a Latina to look up to there are thousands upon thousands of real people who deserve your praise long before something thought up from The Disney Company. However I can see how some may feel let down by this project. I just do not share that opinion. I do feel that Disney should be more careful playing the race card to attract attention to their projects. It’s not a topic to be taken lightly and it often offends many people when not handled sensitively. I think backpedaling on the issue was a mistake on Disney’s part but I’m not going to hang them out to dry for it. They got caught between a rock and a hard place. Simply sticking to their original statement would have avoided most of this. Disney is riddled with controversy. It will be till the end of time. I do not believe their intention was to offend anyone even if they did in the end. Perhaps the best way for folks to get their point across is to reject the project all together and find programming that they feel more comfortable with. This option is what makes our country what it is. We have freedom of choice. Thanks for the exchange. I can see we come from opposite sides of the fence but have the same basic outcome that diversity is good, capitalizing on diversity is bad.

      Trent – I was replying to Shannon. But thanks for your view point. I think there are many shows that represent diversity on TV. I’ll use Dora The Explorer as an example since we are discussing Latin characters. Diversity in the media has made leaps and bound in the past 15 years. Its not perfect but I can tell there has been a change for the better. Now more than ever children have access to diverse programming. At least more than I had growing up in the 70′s.

    • Absolutely Dennis, Dora the Explorer is a great example of the strives we have made in diversifying what we see in the media. And Disney could spend the next millennia trying to create characters so that every single person can identify with and they would still come up short. But the issue people have is not that we required to make this particular Latina it’s that they created this expectation and failed to deliver in the eyes of many. I think Disney does a decent job of being inclusive of races with many of their characters, but there are characters and then their are the princesses. To little girls they are the most magical, special, important creation in the Disney realm, and to date, at least in my opinion they still show that this special character can be someone of every other skin tone but brown. Im glad you can look at characters without considering race or skin color, but unfortunately little girls see it differently, and its a lot harder for them to see themselves as princesses, which they consider as someone of value if they are not physically similar. Instead they see that the characters they hold dearly and believe them to be so special and important can be everyone else but them since they have yet to see someone that looks like them. I believe thats the point both Shannon and Trent were trying to make.

  9. Alejandra

    As a fair-skinned, green eyed hispanic lady, I would have been happy with Disney simply stating Sofia was a “Latin American” princess, even if she did or did not look like me. There are millions of “latinos” who I do not resemble. The point was to have a Latin American princess, period.

  10. Your undermining the point Trent is making. The fact of the matter is that you can identify with this princess if she were considered Latina because YOU are fair skinned with green eyed as well. The point is that kids especially girls are born into a world where they are instilled with an impression of the way one should look like to be considered pretty, special, attractive, wanted, and appealing to others. Being slim, blonde, fair skinned, with light colored eyes are traits that we are presented with as the standard for beauty. The fact that they wanted to “do the right thing” and be inclusive and create a Latina princess without willing to compromise the current standard of beauty is where the problems lies. If they created entirely new worlds for the princess to live in void of nationalities and races thats fine its fairy tale world and fairy tale story after all, but the fact is that they have yet to provide a character that little brown skinned, dark eyed girls and boys can relate to, not because they are of a certain nationality (which most kids can care less of today) but because they actually look like them, physically with a similar features like skin color. It’s easy to say you would be ok with it if the princess didn’t look like you , but at the end of the day from your self description it seems like at least this princess does. Isn’t it time for some other little girls to be able to say the same thing.

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