It’s interesting to examine the different ways Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First frame their heroines and said heroines’ relationship to others and the world they inhabit.
Doc is always positioned as in control and a respected professional. The toys, both Doc’s inner circle and patient of the episode, look up to her as a leader, follow her directions, and go to her for guidance. The neighborhood children, and Doc’s younger brother also readily acknowledge Doc’s skills of toy repair and have a great deal of reverence for her abilities. Every episode’s conflict is solved with Doc using a combination of her leadership, medical, and engineering skills to help repair her patients. Physically, Doc operates within a clinic that is well suited for her height and she is also generally much larger than the toys, giving a feeling being in control of her environment. The only person framed as “higher” than Doc is Doc’s mother, a fully licensed human doctor whom Doc sees as her idol and goes to for advice and assistance only in extreme situations. True, Doc’s father is present, but he mostly exists to provide food for his children and physical comedy, rather than be a guiding force.
Sofia, by contrast, is defined heavily by her feelings of bewilderment, naivete, and smallness. The underlying narrative of the show being that Sofia becomes a Princess overnight and is thrust into a new lifestyle, social circle, and set of expectations that are utterly foreign to her. Unlike Doc McStuffin's animation style, which places Doc as in a world which suits her size, Sofia is stylized to be dwarfed by the environment and the adults around her. She is the youngest and the shortest in her family, as well as the newest girl in school. Even amongst her animal companions, she comes of as immature and less world-wise than characters like Clover or Robin. Sofia the First's plots typical focus on Sofia being confronted by challenges, social rules, or childhood problems that are, at least initially, out of her scope to deal with. She must often look to others for help, education, and support. Furthermore, Sofia constantly battles with self confidence issues, peer pressure (benign or aggressive), and her physical limitations to get things done in the world.
Ironically, the show which takes place ostensibly in the real world presents a self affirming power fantasy, whereas the show taking place in a world of flying horses and talking rabbits presses down its protagonist. Mind you, this distinction is probably for the best, since having the situation reversed would leave Doc feeling disenfranchised for no good reason and Sofia’s tale feeling overly indulgent. Doc is the kind of girl you want to be; respected, confident, and in command. Whereas Sofia is the kind of girl you often feel like deep down; scared, small, and constantly having to work against the doubting words of others to prove that you have valuable thoughts and actions to offer to the world. And, at least in my opinion, it is very good to have both of them around.