Tag: cartoons

Such a Princess

I hesitate to mention this, but I know way too much about Sofia the First.

You see, we have a two-year-old boy, and while we limit his TV time, he still catches the occasional Doc McStuffins or Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And Sofia is on right after Jake, so we’ve caught bits and pieces of the show (just enough to drive me mildly insane).

Now, it turns out that Sofia is going to be the launching pad for Disney’s first Latina princess, Elena of Avalor, who is inspired by “diverse Latin cultures and folklore,” according to the good people at Disney. She will receive her own TV show next year.

elena

Of course, the issue of diversity is a touchy one in Hollywood. Just ask Sean Penn about Hispanic representation in the film world… well, on second thought, don’t ask him anything.

In any case, Elena’s arrival shows that Hollywood is sensitive to its reputation as indifferent to ethnic minorities, and that the entertainment industry is trying to improve the representation of Hispanics in pop culture.

But everybody’s a critic. And those critics are saying it’s too little, too late.

First, there is the issue that Elena is going to originate as a sidekick, and worse, there are no plans for her to have her own movie, despite the fact that many Disney princesses of various ethnicities and races have received their own feature films. Hey, Mulan got a pair of movies over a decade ago, and Asians are even less represented in film than Hispanics. So, yeah — what gives?

The second irritation is that Elena’s exact nationality is being kept vague. By not being specific about her homeland, critics argue, Disney is failing to explore the diversity within Hispanic culture, and instead using one brown-eyed princess as an interchangeable stand-in for all Latinas.

This is where I can be of assistance. I can tell you that saying Elena is from Cuba or Bolivia or Puerto Rico would be more bizarre than anything. That’s because the setting for Sofia is a magical dreamland where unicorns run wild, and little kids take classes on how to cast spells, and cutesy-pie dragons burst into song for no reason. Yeah, it’s that annoying.

But while most of the characters speak in a whiny faux British accent, it’s not specifically European. It’s otherworldly. So if this princess from, say, Mexico, just shows up, the effect will be a little jarring.

I told you I knew too much about this damn show.

Regardless, Elena is a step in the right direction. And even if I hated the idea of a Latina princess, it wouldn’t matter, because I’m going to see her, one way or another.

Yes, at this point, I’m just looking forward to the day when my son is finally old enough for Phineas and Ferb.


Andale!

I’ve always had issues with the guy.

I know his good qualities outweigh his bad ones. After all, he’s smart, crafty, occasionally funny, and in his own way, even heroic.

But he’s a thief. And he’s a filthy rodent, which is hard to overlook.

So what do we make of Speedy Gonzalez?

Let’s not get all freshman term paper here, but there are obvious cultural connotations to the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Like every piece of art, they reflect the society and times in which they were created.

The only Hispanic character, to my knowledge, was Speedy Gonzalez. He was a leading man whom kids were supposed to root for. And he always won the day due to his bravery and quick wits.

But the symbolism is inescapable: He was a sneaky mouse determined to steal cheese. I might add that all his friends were lazy cowards. And if the connotations weren’t clear enough, how about that time the mice were trying to sneak across the border?


To be fair, Latinos actually come off better in the old Merrie Melodies than do blacks, Asians, or Southerners. The animators seemed to have special disdain for the French, whom they personified in Pepe le Pew – a rude, oblivious, dimwitted sexual harasser who reeked (and he wasn’t funny either).

They were ahead of their time when it came to gays, however, unless you think it was a coincidence that Bugs Bunny was always cross-dressing. Somebody on that writing staff was just dying to out himself. But I digress.

In any case, the creators of Speedy Gonzalez were, I believe, trying to be positive. They just couldn’t get past the stereotypes. And they were also culturally confused when it came to Latinos. After all, why else would the king of Spain have a Mexican accent (as displayed in the immortal line, “It’s flat like your head”)?

By the way, if anybody knows if they still air Speedy Gonzalez cartoons, let me know. It would be a shame if the kids of today missed out on him… or maybe it wouldn’t, I’m still not sure.


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