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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Zorro is a black and white adventure series that first aired on TV from 1957 to 1959. It's set in Los Angeles of 1820, when it was still part of Spanish California. Zorro aids Latino settlers and indigenous peoples oppressed by the military rulers. The characters featured are Spanish, Mexican, and Native American and are occasionally portrayed in positive lights. Unfortunately, there are also several negative and harmful stereotypes. A man who can't speak takes on a secret identity and plays a key spying role by pretending to be "a fool" who can't speak or hear. People he meets openly mock him and refer to him as "deaf and dumb". There's also references to Native people as villains and women are given very narrow roles. Guns and swords are shown often, people are shot at, tied up and gagged, and murder is a plot point. Blood is not shown and the fighting looks cartoonish. Insult language like "stupid one" is used often.
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What's the Story?
ZORRO is a classic Robin Hood type hero who fights for the poor and disenfranchised using a disguise. After being in Spain studying and learning to fence for 3 years, Don Diego returns to his family hacienda in Los Angeles to find a new Comandante has taken over and military rule has been established. He's on a ruthless mission to be the richest man in all of California and those that speak out against him are accused of treason and thrown in jail. Don Diego decides to pretend to be a "spineless" scholar while moonlighting as a masked vigilante named Zorro.
Is It Any Good?
This classic black-and-white action-adventure series that follows a Spanish Robin Hood-like hero who fights for the poor and disenfranchised is sadly plagued by stereotypes. Zorro first premiered in 1952 and has all the expected swordplay and gun slinging action one might expect alongside themes of justice, fairness, and sticking up for the little guy. Unfortunately, also as one might expect, it's plagued by problematic racist, sexist, and ableist references while starring a man of Italian descent in the title role. The show's language is also more formal than what young audiences may be used to, making storylines harder to follow, and the ongoing plot exalts the use of force and violence to solve problems. While the sword fights and stunts still make for an exciting romp, even today, the questionable components of the show make it difficult to fully enjoy.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the narrow roles women play (as love interests and little else). Why do you think this is? Did many women work in the film and TV industry in the 1950s? How do you think that affected how women were portrayed on screen?
Bernardo is referred to as "playing the fool" and "deaf and dumb." How and why were these terms used in the 1950s? Discuss this language and why it shouldn't have been used either back then or today.
In what ways is Zorro the same and different from TV dramas made today, almost 70 years after it first premiered?
- Premiere date: October 10, 1957
- Cast: Guy Williams, Gene Sheldon
- Network: Disney+
- Genre: Action
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
The Sign of Zorro
Fun, swashbuckling classic based on series; some violence.
Zorro: The Chronicles
Copious action, some mature themes in reimagined series.
The Legend of Zorro
Loud sequel to the Mask of Zorro.
For kids who love adventure
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