By Abigail Facundo
In the Walt Disney company, there have been a total of 14 Disney princesses in the official lineup, spanning from 1937’s Snow White to the more recent 2016 Moana. In those 79 years, plus the four years since Moana’s release, there hasn’t been a single princess of Latin or Hispanic descent.
As a child of Puerto Rican descent and a family of Disney fanatics, it was frustrating to n never find someone who looked like me on the screen. Whenever I see other girls dress up as the Disney princess that resemble them, I get jealous. I always end up saying I look more like Jasmine or Pocahontas, even though I am neither Arabian nor Native American.
Things have improved: most minority groups have at least one princess that they can look up to. There’s Tiana for African Americans, Mulan for Asians, Pocahontas for Natives, Jasmine for the East Asians/Middle eastern, and Moana for Polynesians. The rest of the princesses are all from Europe.
Then the faithful announcement from Disney Junior, Disney channel for kids ages 2 to 7, a show featuring a Latina princess named Elena (Ah-Le-na, not E-lay-nah) was gonna be available. To be frank, I was ecstatic about it, this would be the chance for smaller kids of Hispanic or Latin heritage to have a Disney role model. I decided to watch when the show premiered. I was disappointed.
The pilot episode begins with a whole lot of background information, which could be a whole movie on its own, and besides that nothing goes on in the show. The setting is the Kingdom of Avalor, an allusion to a mixture of all Latin cultures, from Caribbean architecture, Spaniard clothing, Mexican holidays, and indigenous myths. That in and of itself is too much.
Each of the other princesses has a single and complete culture; the one they truly represent. Even the European princesses have distinct characteristics based on the country they are from.
Though I’m sure the creative team means no harm, having multiple cultures mixed up is not a good introduction to people not of that heritage. It also isn’t a true representation, since viewers can’t even distinguish what she is representing.
At the end of the day, it’s only a Disney Junior show. Even if it’s loved by many children who watch the show, it’s never going to be taken seriously or amount to full representation.
In Disney’s future, I hope the company can simmer down and truly represent as a Disney princess. Who knows? She might be lucky number 15.