"Dora and the Lost City of Gold" is being heralded for its Latinx representation, but some critics have concerns. (Illustration by Jaila Desper, University of Maryland)
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Dora’s live-action debut has fans curious about some of the film’s choices.

It’s 7 a.m. on a weekday. “It’s time to get ready for school,” your mom yells from the kitchen, so you begin to groggily get out of bed. The only light brightening your small childhood bedroom comes from the closet doorway.

You get dressed as your mind slowly descends back to Earth after a night of energetic dreams. Once you’re just about ready, it’s time for breakfast, so you pour a bowl of Lucky Charms to calm your grumbling stomach. As you eat, a small girl asks you to join her on a quest through the jungle. “Hola, soy Dora and I need your help!” she says. She goes on alone with her best friend Boots the Monkey, as well as her other companions, Backpack and Map, as a bilingual, jungle-exploring icon of representation for Hispanic kids.

So, maybe your mornings never started like this, but for me waking up in a Spanish-speaking household, Dora was vital for my Spanish-language education. She was primarily a cartoon character before anything else, but for my young 4-year-old self, she was also my friend and was showcasing my Hispanic culture freely, which was something that other Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney Channel shows failed to do at the time. She is almost seen as a joke now because of her proclivity for jungle-roaming and other memes about her excessive question-asking, but Dora now is making a comeback.

Back in Nickelodeon’s prime, the “Kids’ Choice Awards” were one of the most entertaining things to watch: neon green slime engulfing the crowds and celebrity guests, the host cracking slime-related jokes, seeing which of your favorite TV shows would come out on top and jealously bubbling over who was lucky enough to hold a real “KCA” Blimp. (Be honest, you know you wanted to peek inside of it!)

However, as our generation began growing older, Nickelodeon became less and less appealing because its shows were no longer as relatable as they once were to their our generation’s overactive imaginations, thus ending the crazy slime appeal of the “Kids Choice Awards.”

Still, while you probably long ago tuned out channels like Nick, the “Kids Choice Awards” are still going strong and a few weeks ago, a rather interesting trailer aired during the show.

Based on the trailer, Dora has spent her five years off-air gallivanting through the jungle, but a discovery her parents make threatens to upend her life. After her mother and father discover a clue to the location of a lost city of gold, they decide to send Dora to the big city to get an education rather than accompany them on their treasure hunt.

She ends up with her cousin Diego in high school, but she must quickly adapt to the new people who bully her for being unused to urban living. On a school field trip to a museum, Dora and some of her classmates are taken hostage and sent back to the jungle so that Dora can find her parents and the lost city’s treasures. They manage to escape, however, with the help of one of Dora’s parents’ friends and begin trekking through the jungle in search of her parents. Reactions to the trailer were ultimately mixed, but Dora was her own star on social media for a few days.

Some users loved the “Indiana Jones” vibe to the promo, while others compared it to other subpar Nickelodeon live-action films, such as “The Last Airbender” and “A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up Timmy Turner.” Others also criticized the movie’s alteration of the staples of “Dora the Explorer,” including breaking the fourth wall to ask viewers questions about how to help her, as well as the absence of the sentient Map and Backpack characters, who are so far not in the film.

And instead of using a real monkey as Boots, producers decided to keep her lovable companion CGI, which left many wondering: Where were Boots’ boots? And when did Diego, who looks nothing like his animated version, move to the city?

As with the release of anything nostalgic, many people were thanking producers for ruining their childhoods, which was a bit bold because they were clearly refusing to take into account that an entire group of Hispanic names was making it onto the big screen, another hot topic with this film announcement.

Given the film’s heavy Hispanic representation, some fans have begun facetiously calling the film the “Black Panther” for the Latinx community. While I don’t think the two films equate, it’s easy to see how someone could come to this conclusion. Real minority representation has been an issue in Hollywood films for years, but just recently, with films like “Black Panther,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Us” and even “Roma,” these casting inequalities have slowly been brought to light.

Believing that a Nickelodeon movie about a brave, young, adventurous girl will totally solve the representation issue for Latinxs is a long shot, but I suppose it’s a start. With big names like Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo, Benicio del Toro, Eugenio Derbez and Nickelodeon’s Isabela Moner as the explorer herself, it’s clear how people can end up with a, “This is it! Here you go!” mentality, but it’s not.

People need to take into account that Nickelodeon and Marvel Studios are two different movie giants, so there is no comparison between films like “Black Panther” and “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.” I’m no big-shot Hollywood screenwriter or casting director, but I know for certain that something needs to change. When more names of people who are true to their Hispanic culture start popping up at the end credits, then maybe that’s when I’ll stop pinching myself.


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