The controversy: Move over Tiana, the world has a new controversial Disney character to obsess over. Sofia, Disney's latest princess/marketing device, will debut Nov. 18 in a Disney Channel movie called Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess, before getting her own TV series in 2013. (Watch the trailer below.) But the new princess is already at the center of a heated debate, with critics damning Disney for drawing so little attention to Sofia's Latina roots. Only when the show's producers were directly confronted about Sofia's heritage during a recent press tour did they confirm that she's Latina. Other tension points: Sofia's light skin and the fact that she's voiced by a white actress (Modern Family's Ariel Winter). The producers simply say the new princess' ethnicity is being presented as a "matter-of-fact situation rather than an overt thing."
The reaction: "Disney may just be on to something," says Jeanne Sager at The Stir. Promoting Sofia's ethnicity without fanfare is more productive "than a show that feeds our little kids tired stereotypes just to prove, yes, she is Latina!" In an ideal world, that might make sense, says Natalie Zutter at Crushable, "but when they don't seem to acknowledge it at all — [as they] have for Pocahontas, Tiana, Mulan, and other princesses of color — that's odd." It makes Disney seem like it's afraid of offending white Americans, says Alex Nogales, President and CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition. And why not make Sofia more identifiably Latina? "We're in a time where Latinos are taking the blame for everything that is wrong with America. If you're going to promote this to the public... do us a favor and make it a real Latina."
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