So much for progress! Disney had parents all excited last week when they let slip that Princess Sofia, main character of a new TV movie and spinoff series, was slated to be their first Latina princess, joining the likes of Princess Tiana and Princess Jasmine in representing little girls who aren't lily white. And now they've pulled the rug out from under our feet.
Sorry, little Latina girls, but you're going to have to wait for your turn to see a Disney-fied version of you. The Mouse wasn't ready to deal with critics who said Sofia wasn't Latina enough, so they've decided she's not Latina at all.
According to the comments left by Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, on the Sofia the First Facebook page to address to controversy:
What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. 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. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America.
So Latina-ish? But not really? Hmm.
Some parents will say I don't really have a right to comment anyway. I'm a white mom raising a white kid. I say that's all the more reason for me to weigh in on the Latina princess.
Latina kids already know they need to be represented. My kid has a plethora of options out there for her.
I don't want my daughter to be that white kid raised in the sticks who has no concept of diversity. I don't want my kid to be that white kid who looks at all the white dolls and white princesses and white EVERYTHING for kids and figures that's OK because, hey, they look like her ... screw the rest of the kids! Presenting my daughter with dolls of color, letting her hang out with her gay uncles, all of these are a way of putting my mom stamp of approval on concepts that don't exist in our own home but are to be valued.
And yet, I was heartened to hear Disney was talking about a Latina princess who wasn't "overtly" (their word) Latina. Not because I think we should ignore the hundreds of thousands of Latina kids in this country but because overt can often mean stereotyped. And stereotypes help no one. They don't educate our kids; they don't help little girls and boys feel more included.
Whatever your race, I think we are all parents trying to raise kids in a world where diversity is treasured but not a big deal. It's a difficult balance.
I don't believe we need to raise kids who are colorblind; we need them to value the individual races and cultures for what they bring to the table rather than ignoring them. On the other hand, kids aren't born hating; it's a learned process. I have found that if issues like racial diversity are presented to kids as simply "being," they readily accept them. You don't have to bash them over the head with it.
Could Disney have done a little better here? Given Sofia brown eyes at the very least? Maybe a darker skin tone? Most certainly.
But giving in to the complaints seems to send a worse message to our kids than the blue-eyed Sofia did in the first place. They're now telling our kids that culture and race have to fit certain molds.
What do you think of this whole mess? What will you tell your kids about Sofia?
Image via Disney Junior