It is not rocket science: kids dream of becoming the person they look up to, whether they are real or imaginary. In many cases, Disney films play a large role in a person’s childhood because they idolize the characters and how they are portrayed in films. The majority of these characters are princesses. Despite the fact that each princess has their own unique strength, Disney has had a lack of diversity in the past, though they have been steadily working to correct this.
The earlier portrayal of Disney princesses enforced modern beauty standards where white is synonymous with beauty. This lack of representation of other races ultimately caused, and continues to cause as the older films are still very popular, young girls to feel uncomfortable when they are not born with the traits of a white “princess.”
However, Disney’s later films have given us some exceptions to this white standard of beauty such as “Mulan,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas,” and “The Princess and the Frog.”
On July 22, Disney aired a new addition to that more culturally aware list. Disney released an animated television series with the company’s first Latina princess, “Elena of Avalor.” With Elena, more girls can feel comfortable in their own skin without feeling as if only Eurocentric traits are the norm for beauty.
Every culture has a unique and important role in shaping who a person is. Oftentimes, filmmakers without a background in a certain culture end up portraying it through stereotypes, though. However, “Elena of Avalor” encompasses a variety of Latino traditions while straying away from stereotypes. From the music to the characters’ accents and names, the show is universally rich with culture without the traditional removal of many aspects to gain a larger audience.
Not only that, but unlike mainstream Disney films, “Elena of Avalor” lacks any romantic interests. Elena is characterized as a strong and brave teenager who fights for her personal growth without needing to find a prince. The message Elena delivers to the younger generations is extremely meaningful in teaching kids to have strength in their abilities, rather than relying on others for assistance.
Rather than the typical Disney princess who is portrayed in a way that makes them seem perfect, Elena is full of flaws. There are points where she fails, but she tries again until she reaches success.
“The most important thing for us, and for me, was to create a character that could be a really good role model and who would embody the traits of leadership that kids could look up and try to emulate. Not someone who is perfect but someone whose heart is in the right place. Who’s courageous, bold and resourceful,” producer Craig Gerber said according to Remezcla.
The message “Elena of Avalor” sends is overwhelmingly powerful for especially for those with a Latino background, considering that they will finally have a role model who shares similar characteristics, both mentally and physically. To be exact, Elena ultimately builds a connection with kids, sending positive messages regarding leadership and diversity.
Especially at a young age, it is crucial to teach children that we must accept different cultures without supporting the superiority or dominance of a specific one. Our culture plays a large factor in who we are and it is time we accept that, rather than pushing it away.