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Disney’s “Sofia the First” still tells kids to be pretty princesses

Disney is adding a new member to their popular princess lineup, and she’s aimed directly at the youngest generation. Sofia, the title character of an upcoming TV movie (and series), “Sofia the First”, brings something new to the Disney table: she’s the first Disney princess who’s also a kid.

While I can’t find any sources that cite Sofia’s exact age, she is visibly younger than any of Disney’s past main characters, who have always been at least old enough to be getting married to their princes. According to Disney, the age difference is an attempt to appeal to the younger girls that make up their core audience. Sofia’s targeted demographic is the age 2-7 crowd.

At first, this move seems like a step in the right direction. It’s great that Disney is trying to relate to young girls by creating a character who is more like them. Sofia even comes from a “commoner” background—she doesn’t become a princess until her mother marries the king.

However, these are superficial differences. Sofia still looks like a shrunken version of a Belle or an Ariel—thin, white, pretty, and royal. Disney claims: “Although Sofia will have plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes, our stories will show Sofia, and our viewers, that what makes a real princess is what’s inside, not what’s outside. That the inner character of kindness, generosity, loyalty, honesty and grace make you special, not the dress you wear.”

Well, that’s nice, except that what actually makes a “real princess” is being born into (or marrying into) a specific family. Teaching girls that all those great qualities are associated with royalty doesn’t seem that helpful when the viewers are unlikely to ever become princesses themselves.

And shrinking down the princess aesthetic into a pint-size package creates its own problems. At least when the princesses were adults, kids could aspire to look like Jasmine when they were older. Having Sofia be a child tells kids that they should look like this right now—tiny waist, poofy dress, and all.

In the past, About-Face has covered the way that young girls are told they must become concerned with looks as they grow up. The solution is not to tell even younger girls that they must be concerned with their looks as soon as possible, by presenting them with impossibly pretty role models.

So although Disney is trumpeting this as a bold new move, they haven’t changed much at all—and what they have changed might do more harm than good.


6 thoughts on “Disney’s “Sofia the First” still tells kids to be pretty princesses

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  1. This is terrible news! I have always felt that the Disney princesses have negative psychological impact on young girls and boys, but this new character is even more mentally dissolving because of the fact that she is not an aspirational goal for a child, but an actual peer in that the child will feel inadequate. Disney is not headed in the direction I would like to see it go in.

  2. I’d be interested to see the types of stories that are going to be associated with this character. While I agree that the typical white, unattainably skinny and beautiful image of the character is problematic, maybe they will at least have good, meaningful, and valuable story lines to go with the character? But then again, I think it’s problematic in the first place that Disney’s ideal female character is always a princess. Is a princess all we want little girls to aspire to be? Though it’s obvious that these young girls who are watching Disney movies/TV series will not become princesses, Disney seems to be setting up other qualities young girls should strive for: Wealth, beauty, a prince, purity, etc. None of these are realistic or healthy in themselves.

  3. I totally agree. If they wanted to make a younger character, they had a fabulous opportunity to come up with someone original who their audience could really relate to. Making her a princess just seems like laziness and lack of creativity.

  4. At the very least, if you’re going to make a child protagonist, give her a child-like body! This “shrunken” princess has an impossibly tiny waist–it appears it would fit 3 times across her forehead! A character with a body more like Lilo or Dora would be so much more appropriate for this age range, and there are very appealing images of Dora dressed as a princess.

    Also, a more mainstream girl could play at being a princess but also explore many of the other possibilities more applicable to most children’s futures (and reflecting more interests besides just princesses), such as working with animals, working in medical fields, teaching, mothering, working in an office, and the list goes on and on. How about a show where a girl imagines herself to be various different things each time and the viewers get to learn more about those things? It could certainly include princesses, but also doctors and nurses, oceanographers, veterinarians, farmers, and so much more. If done well, it could be very entertaining and educational and such a positive role model. And, on the monetary side of things, think of all the different types of outfits they could sell for her to wear!

  5. My little friend would love to be like her, but her momma raises her well. No skinny waists at this house!

  6. If I’m doing my job as a parent, then I don’t need to worry about a CARTOON superseding the character and integrity I instill in my own child.

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