Nickelodeon's New Princess Is Also A Biracial, Dragon-Fighting Knight, And We're So Here For It

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 

We always encourage our kids and tell them they can be anyone they want to be. That’s why it’s so cool that Nickelodeon’s new show Nella the Princess Knight steps outside of the box and drives that point home.

Not only does Nella wear a sparkly dress, but she wears a suit of armor and carries a sword as well. “There are a lot of princesses out there and we had to think about what would make a Nickelodeon princess unique. What became crystal clear to us in the development process is that Nella didn’t have to be a princess or a knight — she could be both,” Nina Hahn, senior vice president of international production and development at Nickelodeon, told the The Huffington Post in an interview.

I grew up a Disney addict. Princesses run deep in my blood, but I also played with a cap gun, dinosaurs, and Matchbox cars when I was a kid. It’s easy to tell our children not to put themselves in a box, but then we do it anyway by trying to guide them away from princesses. Hopefully, Nella will appeal to those parents too. Yes, she may ride on a horse with a pink mane and a bow on its tail, but she does so in a full suit of armor with a sword and a shield. She fights dragons with the same ease that she wears a tiara. In the trailer, she does a Wonder Woman-esque spin where she transforms from princess to knight and jumps on the back of her horse to fight injustice.

But for me, the coolest thing is that Nella isn’t just a dual princess-knight, she’s also biracial. Her father is black, and her mother is white. There aren’t many biracial or multiracial characters on young children’s television. Though the channels have begun to introduce more racially diverse characters over the years, biracial kids still find themselves on the sidelines when it comes to representation in mainstream media.

According to the New York Times, Nickelodeon has conducted research that found 17% of children under 12 are biracial, and that number will only continue to rise — with most children under 12 being nonwhite by 2020, only three years from now. With that many kids, it is incredibly important to represent them on television. As the parent of a biracial child (my son’s father is white, and I’m black), it is so hard to find kids on television who are like my son. The only other show that he watches with a biracial lead character is Sid the Science Kid on PBS.

As diversity in Hollywood becomes a real topic of discussion and something people are actively trying to portray, it is easy to just fall into the monoracial discussion and forget about biracial kids altogether. But the timing of Nella is perfect: The film Loving, about the couple who inspired the 1967 Supreme Court decision to make interracial marriage a constitutional right, was recently released to critical acclaim. It’s a reminder that this fight for civil rights was not too long ago. Now my son and kids like him will have someone who they can look at and say, “She’s just like me!” Representation matters, folks.

In 2017, it is so important to illustrate to our children that people are multifaceted — everyone is their own unique individual. Nella was made not just to appeal to girls, but to boys as well. As many of us strive to teach our sons that it’s okay to break gender norms, children’s television and film haven’t quite caught up. Having Nella go from wearing a dress to kicking some serious dragon butt in a matter of minutes is a strong start. (How cool would it be if she fought the dragon wearing the dress? It may be impractical, but still hella cool.) This will appeal to the masses, and maybe get them to see that princesses can fight like Superman or Captain America too. Girls will be running around with bedazzled swords and shields like some sort of modern-day Joan of Arc.

Given the current political climate, children need to see a peer who remains strong in the face of adversity while also teaching traditional lessons like empathy and leadership. In a clip that was released, Nella even sings a cover of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” which was most recently featured by Hillary Clinton during her campaign. Nell is shown fighting alongside boys, but she’s the leader. She looks like a modern-day kid doing something not-so modern: wearing glass slippers and shattering glass ceilings at the same time.

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