As it turns out, Disney’s Princess Sofia that I wrote about last week is not Latina. As a refresher, Jamie Mitchell, producer of the TV show “Sofia the First,” said at a press conference that Sofia was Latina, after a question from a blogger as to why Sofia’s mom has darker skin. Now, Nancy Kanter, Disney Junior Worldwide’s senior vice president of original programming and general manager, says that producer Mitchell “misspoke.”
Kanter met with Alex Nogales, CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), to discuss the impact of “Sofia the First” in the Latino community. In a statement released by Nogales, he said Kanter “shared that ‘Sofia the First’ is in fact not a Latina character and that the producer of the television program misspoke.”
I have to wonder how much of this is true. You would think that a producer of a TV show would know the main character’s heritage. I suspect that after some backlash, Disney decided to take back the idea that she was Latina. Although, Nogales wrote in the statement “We…celebrate the good news that Disney Junior has an exciting project in early development that does have a Latina as the heroine of the show.” One of the biggest critiques of a possible Latina Princess Sofia was that her heritage wasn’t prominent in the show and that she was only Latina because Disney said she was. After this was pointed out around the internet, I think maybe Disney decided to create a project in “early development” that possibly has a Latina with more of her heritage mentioned.
I would like to point out that some BUST readers said you can be Latina and not act a certain way or “fit your definition of ‘Latina culture,’” and I totally agree. In no way did I intend to imply that I had a certain definition of what a Latina should be. That’s not the way I think. I simply did not want to discredit the argument that Disney was making Sofia Hispanic without “actually call[ing] it out” as Joe D’Ambrosia, vice president of Disney Junior stated. I also didn’t want to discredit the argument saying Latina girls can look like Sofia. Both arguments came from Latinas and non-Latinas, I was simply trying to cover my bases.
Princess Sofia and Her Mother
I still feel, however, that Disney did mess up - not in the show itself, but in the way the people behind it handled everything. They seemed to talk too much about her being Latina at the original conference for them to now claim she isn’t Latina after all. It seems to me that they realized they messed up.
A few days before the meeting with the media group, the Disney Junior Worldwide Facebook Page posted “Some of you may have seen the recent news stories on whether Sofia is or isn’t a ‘Latina princess.’ What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world…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. For example, Sofia’s mom comes from a fictitious land, Galdiz, which was inspired by Spain.”
It seems Sofia’s mom is from a land inspired by Spain, but it is not a focus point of the show as far as Sofia is concerned, so it does seem plausible that producer Mitchell could have misspoken, or not been as clear as he could have been about Sofia’s race. Either way, people might be interested in knowing that Disney does have a Latina character in early development. The NHMC seems happy about it as they have agreed to share their writers alumni list to help Disney create “authentic, three-dimensional Latino characters.”