I have a daughter that will turn 4 in a couple of months. Considering we spend a great deal of time together and I live in a place far from many of my friends, she is probably my best friend. She’s an amazing person, full of life, vitality, jokes, and questions. Oh, the questions.
From the beginning, we didn’t force her to play with any toys or watch any shows based on gender identity (not because we’re good liberals, though we are, but because we didn’t think about it). Thus, she loves all sorts of films and shows with all sorts of protagonists from Little Einsteins to Super Why to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Sheriff Callie’s Wild West to most of the Pixar and Disney films. I’ve even started to get her into Batman: The Animated Series.
Like so many young girls, she’s drawn to princesses. She loves Anna and Elsa, Aurora and Belle, Cinderella and Snow White. Her favorite by far is Rapunzel. If asked to choose a second favorite, it’d be a battle between Minnie Mouse, Ariel, and Sofia.
If you don’t have kids and are therefore able to watch non-animated shows at any time of the day or night, you may not be familiar with Sofia. Voiced by Modern Family‘s Ariel Winter, the titular character of the Disney Junior show Sofia the First, Sofia is a girl of modest origins from the village of Dunwiddie in the kingdom of Enchancia who became a princess after her mother married King Roland II. As the show’s theme song explains in the first lines:
“I was a girl in the village doing all right/Then I became a princess overnight”
The king already had twins, a son and a daughter, James and Amber.
Think of The Brady Brunch meets Cindarella.
The show premiered as a movie titled Once Upon a Princess that generated 5 million viewers and led to a series, the episodes of which hover around 2 million viewers. Other voices on the show include Wayne Brady as a rabbit obsessed with food and naps (like Garfield) and Tim Gunn as Baileywick, the often hapless but kind castle steward. Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bonnie Hunt, Jeffrey Tambor, and more also voice characters on occasion.
When Sofia’s mother, Miranda, marries King Roland, he tells Sofia to call him Dad and gives her the Amulet of Avalor, a necklace and charm that has magical powers, allowing her to talk to animals and call other princesses when she’s in trouble (and even transform into a mermaid). This allows Disney to cross-promote their established princesses as surprise guest stars like when Sammy Davis, Jr. would pop out of a window to talk to Batman and Robin in the 1966 Batman TV show.
In every episode, Sofia finds herself in some sort of jam, a princess often shows up to help, and everything ends happily, all in twenty minutes. Again, just like The Brady Bunch.
That’s the gist.
This is a show I’ve been watching for a few years, having seen each episode at least three times, so in honor of my daughter’s nonstop queries, here are my ten biggest questions regarding this show:
- There is a sorcerer who lives in the basement of the castle. His name is Cedric the Sensational. However, in the early episodes, Sofia kept pronouncing it as “Seedrick,” even as he repeatedly corrected her. Why? And why did it just stop one day? For someone supposedly so clever, this made her look quite dumb.
- Amber is often jealous of Sofia’s amulet, even stealing it from Sofia’s neck one night in her sleep. This begs the question: why did King Roland give a magical amulet (that we later learn was owned by his sister when she was a child) to his stepdaughter but not his own biological child?
- Speaking of which, King Roland II is often referred to as the greatest king Enchancia has ever had. Why? He fucks up constantly and does very little to help those that aren’t also kings. One day, he lets his prepubescent son be king for a day so he can go relax. He’s the George W. Bush of royalty. How is he the best? Was Enchancia previously helmed by Stalin and Hitler?
- What happened to Roland’s wife? Originally, I thought it was maybe a Henry VIII sort of thing, but he has a son, so that can’t be it.
- On the flip side, what happened to Miranda’s husband?
- While we’re on the subject, Roland met Miranda, a shoemaker, when she was summoned to the castle to give the king a new pair of slippers and it was love at first sight. How does a village shoemaker get such easy access to the king? What if she were dangerous? Is this why Roland is so beloved, because people can just approach him? I can’t even get an audience with my congressman.
- It’s obvious that Roland and Miranda get married very quickly after meeting. Why the shotgun wedding? Was she pregnant? What happened to the baby? Did she have dirt on the king that she used to blackmail him? Or is Roland a serial monogamist who needs to be in a relationship at all times?
- Why doesn’t Sofia meet her (step)father or (step)siblings until the day of the wedding? They never had a get-to-know-you dinner beforehand? What about the rehearsal?
- When Rapunzel shows up to help Sofia and Amber, she has her famous long blonde hair, which she uses to help them get out of a hole in which they’ve fallen. However, the last time we saw her, it had been cut off and turned dark. In fact, this was the reason there was no sequel (apart from the short Tangled Ever After). How?
- Similarly, when Ariel shows up to help, she’s a mermaid, but at the end of The Little Mermaid, she has taken on a human form and married Eric. Again, how? (Update: according to my sister-in-law, an amateur Ariel scholar: “It’s basically the synopsis of The Little Mermaid II – at the end, her daughter Melody chooses to partake in the human and mermaid world so it’s reasonable to assume that she and Ariel can pretty much go back and forth as they please.”)
Finally, this isn’t really a question, but in some episodes Sofia is incredibly clever, insightful, and prescient, yet other times she’s completely naive or, worse, disbelieving. This is a girl that talks to animals and has princesses appear when she needs them, yet she’s still adamant that certain things can’t possibly be true. And she never learns from her mistakes. She is constantly betrayed by bad spirits and animals pretending to be good. I know this is meant to show how she has a good heart and believes in the human race, but I see it as a major character flaw.
This show infuriates the hell out of me. Can’t wait to watch the next 100 episodes.
After reading this, the show’s creator answered my questions. Read them by clicking here.
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.