Disney, as you might already know, is gearing up for the debut of Elena of Avalor, its first-ever Latina princess for people to argue a whole lot about. If this sounds a little familiar, it’s because we went through the same debate on Latino-ness with Disney’s other first-ever Latina princess, Sofia the First.
It’s because of, not despite, the debate surrounding these characters that Disney should strive to make even MORE Latina princesses. Lots of ’em. From all different places, with a variety of skin tones, hair textures, dreams, goals and abilities. Also please make at least one of the princesses goth.
The reality is that there will always be a certain level of (healthy) trepidation surrounding an announcement that a POC character (or, in Sofia’s case, a white/maybe-Latina character) is being presented to us by a large corporation aimed at bringing in as broad an audience as possible.
Disney, and similar companies, aim to appeal to as wide an audience as possible and, as is often with the case with entertainment media, whiter (or, similarly, white-washed) characters are deemed more marketable and–blegh–relatable to wider audiences. (More on why “relatability” is silly later.) So when companies present characters who aren’t necessarily Anglo, there’s a fear of potential stereotyping, of tokenization or of otherwise presenting this character through the lens of a presumed very white, very myopic audience. There’s also the concern that these corporations and studios, which might not fundamentally understand something like Latino identities or history, will profit off these portrayals at the expense of actual Latinos. Then there are, of course, arguments against the ideas of Disney princesses in general.
All of these are valid concerns.
Representation only becomes better the more there is of it. Particularly now, at a time when social media allows all kinds of voices to be heard, groups that haven’t been able to see themselves adequately and accurately reflected onscreen (even as magical girls from faraway lands) are demanding not just representation, but thoughtful, smart, funny, inclusive representation.
And the reality is, many Latinos are used to relating to white, Anglo characters (and, increasingly, to black characters and Asian characters). I mean, we consume a LOT of media, and a big chunk of it doesn’t involve us at all. Why would non-Latino viewers not, then, also relate to us? After all, plenty of little kids from all backgrounds adore Dora the Explorer and want to be just like her. And who doesn’t love Jane (you know, the virgin)?
Providing us with more Latina princesses also offers a chance to explore how diverse of a community Latinos are, both in terms of physical looks and interests.
If Sofia is deemed too fair and light-eyed to accurately portray a large swatch of Latinas, it’s because that’s true of any Latina. Which is why there should also be Afro-Latina princesses, princesses of indigenous American backgrounds, Japanese-Brazilian princesses, Chinese-Cuban princesses, Latina princesses with bright red hair and freckles, Latina princesses who don’t speak Spanish, Latina princesses who are fifth-generation Chicanas.
Btw, don’t get too hung up on the historical plausibility of these princesses, you guys. They’re literally cartoons. There’s no way that, like, Tinkerbell’s wings could possibly hold up her body mass, or that ANIMALS AND ENCHANTED FREAKIN’ TEAPOTS CAN TALK AND ALSO SOMETIMES WEAR JAUNTY TUNICS, so let’s just draw a line right here.
Basically: More is more. And we should have it all.
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