I was absolultely fascinated yesterday with talk on the intertubez of a new Disney princess. I mean, how could I not read story after story when the first story I came across was titled ”Disney’s Latina Princess Sofia has Fair Skin and Blue Eyes.”
I had to google stalk mi hermana princesa a little bit and found this adorable picture of her:
Then I took to my phone, texting Hathor, “The new little Disney princess is Latina!! And she has pale ankles, blue eyes, and red hair!!!” Hathor replied, “Dude! You’re going to get your own action figure!!”
Perhaps not, as you’ll read subsequently, but you can imagine that the Internet lost its collective mind over what to do with a pale faced, blue eyed Hispanic:
My favorite was a tweet that asked whether “Sofia” was Latin enough. Now, this is a tale that is, to use a Disney phrase, “as old as time.” The question of how dark must a person be to be a “real Hispanic.” The world had a similar conversation recently about whether Elizabeth Warren was a “real” Native American because, according to her self-indentified Caucasian opponent, she didn’t “look” Native American. Still, it is apparent from listening to her that the experiences of her Native American ancestors are an integral part of who she is. The issue of identity can be challenging for those who are from mixed heritage and I recently had some very interesting conversations with Hathor about the question of how many generations of white marriage it takes until a person is forced to lose their “ethnic’ heritage…
Video 1: Carol Channig’s paternal grandfather was African American, although she didn’t reveal it until 2002 when she released her memoir. Still, from her recent statements it is apparent that it shaped her identity.
And there is a phenomenal book I recently read called American Chica that deals with the identity issues of a pale-faced half-Peruvian woman. It’s a great read.
I digress. Princess Sofia becomes a princess when her mother, a store owner, marries King Roland II. But, what sparked the discussion of Princess Sofia’s ethnic identity was the appearance of her mother.
At a recent press event a blogger asked why Queen Miranda’s skin is darker than Princess Sofia’s, which I will admit was subtle enough that I didn’t notice at first, and the executive producer replied, “She’s Latina.” Since, Disney has clarified its position on Princess Sofia’s Facebook page:
As we approach the premiere of ‘Sofia the First’ on November 18, I wanted to check in here and thank you once again for your warm welcome for our new little princess. 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. 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. For example, Sofia’s mom comes from a fictitious land, Galdiz, which was inspired by Spain.
There are wonderful stories coming up in which Sofia and her family celebrate a winter holiday called Wassailia (reminiscent of a Scandinavian Christmas), and go on a picnic in Wei-Ling, an Asian-inspired kingdom. Most importantly, Sofia’s world reflects the ethnically diverse world we live in but it is not OUR world, it is a fairytale and storybook world that we hope will help spur a child’s imagination.
It’s one where we can have flying horses, schools led by fairies, songs that
have a Latin beat and towns with markets like those found in North Africa.
Together, this creates a world of diversity and inclusion that sends just the
right kind of message to all children — “Look around you, appreciate the
differences you see and celebrate what makes us all the same.” I am eager for
you and your children to meet Sofia and experience her world together!-
So, perhaps Princess Sofia wasn’t intended to be the first Latina princess and our conflict is reflected in our community’s desperation to see images that its youth can identify with. Maybe she was just intended to have a little bit of sabor. Or perhaps she is intended to be Latina. I don’t know and I am sure that there are people smarter than me that can dissect this issue down to its smallest bits. What as made my ass twitch from the beginning is the way that it all started – with a blogger asking, “Why is her mother’s skin darker.”
Wht the hell kind of fucked up question is that?
Seriously, those kinds of questions get me lit. As a woman from a multi-cultural family, I got these sorts of questions on a regular basis growing up. I’ve got pretty much the same coloring as Princess Sofia, but I have a younger sister who looked like Dora the Explorer as a girl. She’s 14 years younger than me and I frequently surprised her and picked her up from daycare when I was home from college. Every time it was the same damned thing. I would tell the fine folks that “I am her older sister and should have a note letting you know that I would be picking her up today” and they would reply, “Hold on a minute. We’re going to need to check her folder and we’re going to need to see some ID.” Even after all of the checking, I still got the behind-the-back stink eye as I walked my little brown sister to the car. That “something just isn’t right” look.
Not every family looks the same. I realize it is still shocking to many, but sometimes brown folks mate with light folks and make babies. Sometimes people adopt children that don’t look like them. Sometimes men and men raise children and sometimes women and women raise children. Some parents divorce and have children that are raised by a step-parent. Our feeling of entitlement as a society, our feelings of 0wnership over race and ethnic identity, demanding to know all the perceived-salacious details of mixed children’s parentage, infuriates me to no end.
So, Queen Miranda is one step over on the color wheel from Princess Sofia. How many millions of children will relate to a child who isn’t the exact same color as her parents? Maybe she’s not the “perfect” Latina, but she is a princess that a lot of people will relate to.
But, more importanly to me, why are we not discussing the repeated use of the Disney trope where a minority woman needs to marry a man, especially a white man (here, King Roland II) in order to advance in society? Pocahantas did it. Tiana did. Now Queen Miranda.
Maybe when Disney finally gives a a “real” Latina princess, she can decide to become a scientist and come up with a solution to global warming to save all the animals taht she talks to with her magical amulet. Or something. And I really don’t care if they give her dark eye and hair and skin, as long as they give her badass shoes.
Figure I Lost Count: Gucci’s Bright Pump in orange. $269.95 at DSW.