Disney Awkwardly Backtracks From All That First Latina Princess Press, Says ‘Sofia The First’ Isn’t Latina After All

sofia the firstWell, thanks for clearing that up, Disney. Despite multiple and glowing reports that Disney would be debuting its first Latina princess, Sofia the First, Disney has clarified that Sofia is “a mixed-heritage princess.” It would appear that the Disney staff is pretty divided on what it means to be Latina in the first place. That and some other potential racial pitfalls appear to be in store judging by an awkward disclaimer for the new series.

It was only last week that executive producer, Jamie Mitchell, openly declared that Sofia was the first Latina princess to appear on a Disney animation project, telling NBC news plainly, “She is Latina.” Joe D’Ambrosia, vice president of Disney Junior original programming, followed up with a more softening statement, saying that he and his fellow producers “never actually call it out.”

But despite initial insistence that Sofia was Latina, potential fans took to Sofia’s Facebook to voice concerns over the little girl’s complexion. Some fans posited that Sofia’s light skin made her a little less Latina than they were hoping for. Ruth Iorio wrote on Sofia’s Facebook page that Disney’s attempt at a Latina princess was “pathetic”:

She’s white. She looks white because Disney caters to a predominantly white audience and white people like watching other white people, or brown people who can pass as white people. Fuck Disney and fuck anyone who thinks this is anything more than a pathetic and patronizing dismissal of ethnic diversity and equality.

Farah Chanteuse Belliard also seemed disappointed:

They don’t actually SAY she’s Latina, and they admit as much…. call me when she starts speaking Spanish.

Deya Diaz insinuated that Sofia was a start towards diversity:

She’s HALF? I’ll take it! Any where we can get some fame – I’m with it! LOL…No but seriously, I am with the majority of you…There is no set way of Looking Latina! My older bro is a dark shade and my younger bro is blonde hair hazel eyes, while i’m in between. We have the same parents, but all look different. That’s being Latino! We are all different shades…

But just today, Disney backtracked on all that Latina princess press, assuring excited fans that it’s Sofia’s “fairytale” background that’s most important. Craig Gerber, co-executive producer/writer on Sofia the First, clarified the “is she or isn’t she?” with a simple detailing of her parents:

“Princess Sofia 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.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shelly-Lloyd/826469442 Shelly Lloyd

    uhm, is it me or did they forget to draw her a nose?

    • katydid

      yeah this through me off while i read the entire article. where the heck is her nose?

    • madison

      you can see her nose when she turns to the left or rite. they seem to have a problem drawing princesses strait on.

  • Andrea

    Being “latina” is not something they can easily do. I always disliked the term to lump all people from South/Central america together when in fact we cannot be more different. Someone from Mexico has little in common with someone from Argentina, beyond the language, which, in fact, can vary DRASTICALLY from country to country. For instance “I” (me) in Spanish is written “yo”. In Mexico it is pronounced “iOH” and in Argentina it is pronounced “shOH”. And we even have different words for the same things too (kinda like fries and chips)

    So it is not something that Disney could easily do anyways without potentially offending even more people. I actually rather they stay away from this anyways.

    • Cori

      I always thought “latina” meant spain based (a european country) and “hispanic” meant south american based. While both areas speak spanish, people in spain look pretty white to me. Am I wrong?

    • waffre

      Latina/o means “from Latin America” in other words the region in the Americas in which Spanish is the primary language. I think “Hispanic” is the broader term and means you’re from a spanish-speaking country.. but don’t quote me on either of those things, I haven’t studied the subject– that’s just what I’ve picked up from context over the years.

    • Andrea

      What waffre said is largely correct. Spaniards surely wouldn’t want to be called latinos. They tend to be pretty condescending towards people from Central/South America. They call them “sudacas”. Think of it as kinda like the “n” word, but using the word “south” as a starter instead of the other word. I just don’t wanna post that word, so I hope this makes sense.

      At any rate, in this country latino is largely considered people from Latin America, largely of Hispanic DESCENT. Although we are not all the same and I don’t really identify myself as Hispanic or Latina. I was born in Argentina, but my grandparents are all Italian born. So I consider myself more of a WOP (I say it affectionately). And like me, there are people of ALL kinds of descents in latin america. Some are more European, some have more Native blood (a lot more common to have that south of the border than in the US), some are of more African descent (i.e. Jamaicans and Haitians).

      So for the tl;dr crowd: not all the same. Latino is not a word that easily identifies a large number of people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/maija.greenmayne1 Maija Green-Mayne

      I like your explanation Andrea, but for the sake of sharing knowledge let me say this: your statment about Haitians and Jamaicans is close to being right but not quite. The majority of the Haitian population is of strictly African descent though Im sure there are some who have a mixed heritage. As a person of Jamaican descent, I tell you that we are mainly very mixed, hence the motto: Out of Many, One people. Most Jamaicans have more than one race within their family mix, be it African and Chinese, Indian (native or East Indian), Syrian, Japanese, and I could go on. I wouldnt say that Jamaicans have any more people of African descent than, perhaps, Brazilians. Just sharing :)

    • Andrea

      Thank you Maija. Supports what I am saying, “latina” is not really a “thing” that Disney can just make a character into. It is a very diverse group of people. That’s why I always disliked the term.

    • Willowflower

      Ah, I thought it meant anyone whose culture originally spoke Latin. So Spanish, Italian, French, and Romanian would all be considered Latino/a.

  • Yves

    Really who cares! And I’m sick of people not knowing the difference between race and ethnicity. Hispanic people ARE white. Hispanic is an ethnicity, “white” is a race (which is a broader umbrella.) But really, who cares. Why does everything have to turn back to skin color. Guess what? KIDS DO NOT CARE. And that’s who it is *supposed* to be for.

    • Sopne

      Guess what? When you are the only little girl who doesn’t see a representation of yourself on the TV, then kids care. Everything turns back to skin color because it is an aspect that, when you aren’t in the majority, you notice, a lot.

  • Cait

    “Translation: we’ll be culture jacking from many countries but don’t hold us responsible for anything potentially racist, because you know, it’s all a fairy tale!”

    Oh puh-leese. If they actually distort or mishandle anything in the process of making this show, they deserve to be criticized for it, but there is nothing inherently racist or evil about creating a fantasy world that draws from our real world of rich and diverse cultures, especially when it’s aimed toward exposing children to a variety of different situations and life experiences that they’ll later encounter in real life.

    If their depictions of this Asian-inspired land or Scandanavian-inspired holiday mentioned in the article end up drawing from racist stereotypes, THEN they can be picked apart for abusing other cultures and their people. Until then, stop demonizing a perfectly innocent attempt to make a children’s tv show portray a wide array of different cultures.

  • Byron

    Spain and Latin America are not the same thing, Spanish people are just as “white” as the average “white American”.

    I think it’s stupid of them to liken Spain and South American cultures and races as though they’re the same, all they share is the language and an ancestry, modern Spain is nothing like Mexico or Puerto Rico etc. etc.

    • Andrea

      Correct. In no way would someone from Spain consider themselves “latino”.

    • CW

      There are plenty of people from Latin America who have predominantly European heritage. My great-grandma was one. Her family lived in what is now Arizona since the 16th century and she had fair skin. Her daughter, my grandma, had blue eyes.

  • madison

    i rote a longer comment on another review of sofia the first that listed more general disney princess criticism. any way im hispanic and blond because hispanics are either people from spane or people desended from people from spane. They dont all have brown skin and black hair even though a lot do.