Growing up, I loved Disney movies. For most of my early life, I wanted to be Wendy flying off with Peter Pan. “Peter!” I’d yell in a faux-British accent that would make even Madonna herself wince. A couple of years from then, when I was well into my princess phase, I transformed myself into Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She loved books! She had brown hair! She loved her dad! When it came time to pick your favorite princess among your friends, she was obviously my number one choice.
But after awhile, it became slowly apparent that no one really looked like me. Not only did Disney give me serious hair envy (seriously, not one strand out of place?), but I also waited patiently for the one story with a girl who I could envision myself as in a bigger way… I’m still waiting.
Now, Disney has announced a new princess to join the mix: Moana, a Polynesian princess who is the daughter of a navigator. Released drawings show her as a tan, curvy character with black hair. And while we’re super excited for this one (mark your calendars for 2018 folks!) I also wonder if Disney plans to add more princesses to their lineup. Forget a prince, this announcement has many of us hoping that someday our princess will come.
Latinas obviously aren’t the only group MIA. Where are our African princesses? Is Princess Jasmine supposed to rep for all of South Asia and India? Show us a black girl that doesn’t spend 95 percent of the movie as a frog!
That aside, the Sofia the First controversy created an outcry for a Hispanic princess that one would think would push a creation of one into high gear. But aside from a rumored Dia de Los Muertos animated film, Hispanic women (of which make up 17 percent of the U.S. female population) still appear to be out of princess reach – no matter that we have a plethora of folk stories and fairytales to draw from for inspiration, or that appealing to such a huge population would seem to be a marketer’s dream.
Which makes me wonder: is it because it’s just too damn hard?
The Sofia the First controversy stirred up not only Disney reactions, but fan reactions as well. While many called for a Hispanic princess that looked like them (Sofia had light reddish-brown hair and light eyes) others pointed out that Latinas come in all skintones, hair colors and eye colors and they welcomed the idea to turn perceptions of Latinas on their head. And while I’d say viewers would be up in arms if the first “Hispanic“ princess showed nothing of her culture, I’d also venture to say that most viewers would be pissed off if our culture seemed trivialized or stereotyped in any way.
Which also leads to the fact that while the Hispanic culture has many unifying commonalities (language and family being huge ones), there are also many differences among nationalities. If the first Latina princess was Costa Rican, would that satisfy us? If she was an Aztec princess, would we lay claim to her?
Personally, I’d want a princess who looked like many of us: olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes. Would that only perpetuate the notion that all Latinas look like that? I’m not sure. But for little girls growing up, looking at many princesses with fair skin and eyes makes them wonder why they, too, can’t be princesses. Alex Nogales, President and CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a non-profit organization that promotes Latino equality in the entertainment industry addressed the Sofia appearance controversy to Fox News Latino with one simple sentence: “We need more heroes right now that are very identifiable.”
I couldn’t agree more. Little girls need to know that they are all princesses, they are all beautiful, and they are all worthy of a crown. And that starts with seeing diverse appearances in the princess movies they watch. We’re ready Disney – are you?