Disney is set to crown its first Latina princess, but the reception for the new character is not as warm as they might have hoped.
"Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess" will air on the Disney Channel Nov. 18, and though the company has debuted princesses of color in the past (most recently an African-American heroine in 2009's "The Princess and the Frog"), concept art for the Sofia character generated immediate controversy online — as well as comment from TODAY's Natalie Morales on Friday.
Some critics seemed to think that assigning Sofia an ethnicity is little more than a marketing ploy, taking to Twitter and Facebook to complain about her light skin and blue eyes.
There may not be any proven scientific method to determine a cartoon character's genetic makeup, but a "Sofia" producer told Entertainment Weekly that the character is indeed intended to be Latina. In response, many have noted that members of the Latin community have a wide variety of complexions and eye colors, and that to suggest that there's one way for them to look is stereotyping.
NBC Latino's Monica Villa, for one, argued that she herself is Mexican and blue-eyed, and wondered: "Would the reaction be different if Sofia were dark skinned with brown eyes and also rolled her Rs?"
On Friday's “Take 3” segment, TODAY anchor Natalie Morales gave her own take.
"In my opinion, as a Latina, this is something I've had many people say," she said. "'You're Puerto Rican? You don't look Puerto Rican.' What does a Puerto Rican look like?"
Morales added: "There are so many different kinds of Hispanic — blonde, green, blue eyes — we come with all colors and types."
Al pointed out that it's difficult to tell just what Sofia's ethnicity is, since she hails from the fictional kingdom of "Enchancia."
"That's in Puerto Rico," Natalie joked.
Julieanne Smolinski is a TODAY.com contributor.
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