Date Awarded

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


American Studies


Arthur L Knight

Committee Member

Charles F McGovern

Committee Member

Leisa D Meyer


In our contemporary moment, which some are suggesting is a “Golden Age” of American television, programs featuring Latinx characters, especially Latinas, remain scarce. The history of Latinx representation in American television is filled with stereotypical portrayals of violent drug dealers and forlorn domestic workers. This thesis examines how the animated fantasy television program Elena of Avalor (2016-) offers alternative, and potentially empowering, narratives for Latinas. Elena challenges gender norms, explores the ramifications of colonialism, and imagines a world in which whiteness is not the default. However, the show often fails to acknowledge the colorist and anti-Black discourses prevalent within the US and Latin America. as a product of the Disney empire – a corporation that for years has faced criticism for its portrayals of Latinxs in their live action and animated films and shows – Elena embodies the struggle for representation and the fight against commodification. Though a “Latina Disney Princess” can be a source of inspiration to Latinas around the world, there remains the question of how the Latina body is commodified by and for white, non-Latinx consumers. By analyzing the episodes and tie-in merchandise of Elena alongside other Latina-centric programs like Once Upon a Time (2011-2018) and Disney films like Saludos Amigos (1942), I argue that Hollywood’s fixation with cultural and ethnic authenticity is reifying hegemonic notions of Latinidad. While shows like Elena have the potential to dispel stereotypical understandings of Latin America, the US film and television industry continues to disregard the cultural complexity of its Latinx viewers, normalizing whiteness and exoticizing Latinidad.



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