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Disney's first Latina princess under scrutiny

Still from the movie
Still from the movie "Sofia The First," featuring Disney's first Latina princess.
Disney Junior

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Well, we're moving up the social ranks here: from butlers to midwives to ... Princesses.

Disney has a new one and she's already coming under scrutiny. Princess Sofia will join the small but growing ranks of Disney's ethnic princesses. That list already includes Tiana, Mulan and Pocahontas.

But Sofia is the first Latina princess. She'll come to the Disney Channel next month in an appropriately titled film, "Sofia The First: Once Upon A Princess."

KPCC's Leslie Berestein-Rojas of the Multi-American blog joins the show to discuss the criticism surrounding this new Disney character.

So, it's hard to believe after all this time that this is the first Latina princess
"Right? And the fact that it has taken so long for Disney to do this I think means that this princess is really loaded with expectations ... and of course, she's not enchanting everyone. As you mentioned there's already a fair amount of controversy brewing around her."

Well before we talk about that, just tell me a little bit more about her character. Who is she? What's her story?
"She's a young girl whose whose mother marries the king of a place called Enchancia, making her a princess and she's sort of navigating this 'commoner-turned-princess' experience."

What is the controversy about?
"For starters, while the character is supposed to be Latina, Disney executives say they don't plan to make a point of her ethnicity. One of them told Entertainment Weekly that, 'It's sort of a matter-of-fact situation, rather than an overt thing.'"

What does that mean?
"Well, viewers will know that Sofia's mother's name is Miranda, and that Miranda has a darker complexion than her daughter, nothing out of the ordinary in Latino families because we're all multi-hued. Queen Miranda will have been born in a fictional country called Galdiz, which a Disney spokesperson said has 'Latin influences,' whatever that is. But the biggest flap seems to be over her appearance. Sofia has medium-brown hair and blue eyes, now bear in mind, there are plenty of Latinas who look like this, but some critics say that's not representative of the darker-skinned, darker-eyed majority, at least as it exists in places like Southern California. It also bring up the question of, just what does a Latino look like?"

I don't know if we have time in the entirety of the show to answer that
"Right - It sort of depends on where you are. There are lots of Latinas in the Caribbean who look, say, like Princess Tiana from 'The Princess and the Frog,' who is black. There are people who look like Sofia. In fact, I'd say I look a little like Sofia, although my eyes are brown. But there's truth to the fact that at least in the United States, there is a perception of Latinos — at least the majority of Latinos, who here in the Southwest are mostly of Mexican descent — as people with dark hair and olive skin."

And critics say this should be taken into account when creating a Latina Disney princess. As one critic I spoke with put it yesterday, 'Nobody had any problem with Dora.' Though no one really knows where Dora the Explorer is from, either. I've always thought Central America, but I could be wrong."