Meet Princess Sofia, a new Disney character being touted as Disney’s first Latina princess. She’ll be starring in her own direct-to-TV movie Sofia the First on November 18th, which will lead into a TV series in 2013. The movie, aimed at Disney Junior viewers, is about commoner Sofia adjusting to royal life after her mother marries the king of Enchancia. In addition to taking on the responsibilities of a princess, Sofia has to deal with her jealous stepsister Amber and a sorcerer named Cedric.
But with five weeks til the movie comes out, there’s controversy around the fact that Sofia honestly doesn’t look like we would expect a Latina princess to. Bloggers have pointed out her fair skin and blue eyes, especially compared to her mother’s darker complexion. At a recent press tour, executive producer Jamie Mitchell clarified, “She is Latina.” However, Disney Junior original programming VP Joe D’Ambrosia said that they’re intentionally not emphasizing her ethnicity: “We never actually call it out.” Mitchell added, “It’s sort of a matter-of-fact situation rather than an overt thing.” Indeed, Sofia is described as half-Enchancian and half-Galdizian, two fictional kingdoms. So the word “Latina” doesn’t really come into play—and I have to wonder if that’s disempowering for Latina viewers?
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Sofia is voiced by Ariel Winter, a white actress who plays Alex Dunphy on Modern Family. Ariel also played Dora the Explorer in CollegeHumor’s live-action Dora trailer, where she prompted the same criticism that they hadn’t chosen a non-white actress. Sara Ramirez voices Sofia’s mother, but it seems odd that a secondary character would be Latina and the star wouldn’t. Or rather, that the main character is part-Latina and that should be “enough” for viewers.
I can see Disney’s argument that they shouldn’t have to focus on Sofia’s ethnicity as her most important trait. But when they don’t seem to acknowledge it at all – and have for Pocahontas, Tiana, Mulan, and other princesses of color — that’s odd.
Photos: Disney, Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.com