A few weeks ago, Disney announced that it would create its first Latina princess.
The character, Sofia the First, caused some mixed reactions because of Sofia’s looks. For some people, she looked too American to be considered Latina, but others celebrated Disney’s efforts of including Latinos in their shows.
Sofia is part of a TV movie called “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess” that will air Nov. 18 on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. Executive Producer Jamie Mitchell mentioned that Sofia was Latina while promoting the show during a press show, according to a report from CNN. It was also mentioned by Craig Gerber , co-executive producer of the show, that the princess is “a mixed-heritage princess in a fairytale world” and that Spain and Scandinavia from kingdoms inspired her and her mother.
For Ellie Chapman, administrative support at the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, this new princess really made her daughter happy because she has characteristics similar to those of Princess Sofia. Chapman’s daughter has blue eyes and she is half Latina.
But now, Disney is saying that their new princess is not Latina and that Mitchell misspoke by saying she was Latina, according to CNN.
This announcement was disappointing because part of Disney’s fortune is due to the Latino community that watches the channel, President of the Latin American Graduate Student Association David Munoz (graduate-industrial engineering) wrote in an email.
“For now, I prefer to think that this is a misunderstanding and that the Latino community will have the respect we deserve,” Munoz wrote.
This brought back even more backlash from the Latino community because there is no other Disney Latino princess they can relate to.
“The Disney Corporation should’ve anticipated that something like this could occur. And by allowing a representative to make the statement saying that Princess Sofia was in fact Latina and then retracting their statement saying that she wasn’t, demonstrated the confusion amongst the Disney administrators,” Dominican Student Association at PSU Cultural Chair Zolanlly Gutierrez (senior-print journalism) wrote in an email.
Since Princess Sofia is no longer Latina, that leaves the door open to future Latino characters that would represent the Latino community in a better way, Chapman said.
“They could have called her a multiracial princess and not a racial princess. You can’t please everybody, but you can be sensitive,” Chapman said.
President of the Latino Caucus at Penn State Ariel Coronel wrote in an email that she doesn’t think the princess represents Latinos.
“Latinas come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes, but the ‘common look’ is dark hair and eyes,” she wrote. “This Latina princess does not reflect that whatsoever with her light brown hair and blue eyes.”
For student Laura Barbosa (freshman-broadcast journalism), a better interpretation of the Latino community should have the stereotypes of dark hair and voluptuous body.
PRCC Director Carlos Wiley said he thinks that the only way Disney will make a true Latino character would be to create it in a “stereotypical” way.
“It’s hard to make it different without using the stereotype. Latinos come in different shapes,” Carlos Wiley, PRCC director said.
This is not the first time Disney has experienced problems with their characters. Back in 2009, Disney introduced its first African American princess, Tiana, when they released the movie “The Princess and the Frog.” People found issues related to the fact that she married a Caucasian prince.
“There is a long history of people of color not having representation in the media. It is important to have someone that looks like you to be portrayed in a positive way that can be extremely affirming for one self-identity. I hope that when they make their first Latina princess, she is a lot more representative of the Latino community,” Hilario Lomeli, graduate assistant director of Latino Studies said.
Gutierrez wrote that it is important for Disney to represent Latinos since they make up a large group of the population in the country.
“There are already representations of Native Americans, Asian and African American communities and it’s about time that Latinos were the main focal point in a Disney animation series,” Gutierrez wrote.
Collegian Staff Writer Alison Shapiro and the Associated Press contributed to this report.