Can We Stop Telling Kids They Can Only Like Characters That Look Like Them?


I’m a mom and I have noticed a disturbing trend in Hollywood and the media lately. More and more kids are being told they can only enjoy characters that look like them. Not only is this limiting, it’s damaging too. (This is going to be an opinion article.)

While I do agree that “representation matters” the idea that it’s all that matters is a problem. One of the fantastic things about Disney’s diversity of characters and stories is the educational aspect. Disney of course makes some changes to stories but they also do a lot of research into characters, locations, and story. Children (and adults) are being exposed to a lot of stories from other cultures they might not usually get to experience. This is a great thing.

However, a new problem has arisen out of this. The media keeps trying to create issues where there shouldn’t be any issues.

You do not need to be the same race, gender, or from the same culture as a character to identify with that character. In fact, I would argue that a character that crosses these “boundaries” and resonates with someone different is a testament to how well written and developed that character and story is.

When Halloween comes around, or when I visit Disney parks, I see kids dressed as all different kinds of Disney-related characters and they often aren’t the same as them. I have seen not-white children dressed as their favorite white Disney princess. I saw a little boy (who was white) wanting to be Black Panther. My daughter who is a red-head with blue eyes, loves Tiana. She’s her favorite, not Ariel.

Here she is with Tiana at Disney.

The idea that kids should only dress as or love the character that resemble them is just ridiculous.

Which brings me to another point I want to make about Disney. I am sure they did this so the media wouldn’t call them out, but I’m going to call them out.

When you look at their Halloween costume listings on Shop Disney you will notice that there are kids that are not white dressed up as “white” characters. This of course is fantastic and actually what you see when you go to the parks too. Kids are dresses as their favorite characters hoping to see their heroes in the park and meet them in their outfits.

However, any character that is of a different ethnicity is ONLY portrayed by children of that ethnicity on Shop Disney.

How limiting.

What’s scary is I understand why they did it.

If they showed other children dressed as that character they would be accused of “white washing” that particular character. None of it should be an issue. Children should be able to “be” characters that they love, even if they are different.

I think we need to stop limiting children by telling them who they can and can’t identify with. If a girl wants to dress as Captain America, let her. If a boy wants to be Reva, so be it. If a white girl wants to be Moana, shine on and if an Asian girl wants to be Elsa, let it go.

Of course this is all just my opinion. Take it or leave it.

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.