A character analysis of “Dora the Explorer”


Photo courtesy of Maryam Girowall

Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorer. What is it that makes this icon such an enduring cartoon celebrity?

Dora Márquez, more commonly known as Dora the Explorer, is the main protagonist of the hit Nickelodeon children’s show under the same name. She appears in several related series such as “Dora and Friends,” “Into the City,” “Go, Diego, Go!” (starring her cousin Diego) and the 2019 live-action movie “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.” Dora’s adventures during the run of “Dora the Explorer” consist of visiting new places, solving the problems of everyone she encounters and summoning her sentient backpack three times a day, all the while dealing with the antics of several antagonists such as Swiper, a kleptomaniac fox. 

At the ripe ages of eight, 10 and 16, Dora’s identity as a true explorer presents itself in ways not many explorers of our universe are capable of. One example of this is Dora’s ability to thoughtfully communicate with all kinds of species present in the show. Her own confidant and co-explorer Boots, is a talking monkey whom she rescued in the beginning of her career and whose companionship has never left her side through the entirety of the show. Whether Boots’ speech has been dubbed over for the convenience of the viewers, or he really is a monkey fluent in English, it is impossible to know. Additionally, Dora’s prized possessions she carries with her are a purple backpack gifted to her by her parents and an omniscient map named Map. The fact that Dora encourages viewers to say the names of the objects in order to summon their assistance is all we know about the nature of these supernatural objects and her ability to wield them.

Though it may fly over the heads of young viewers, Dora has exhibited superhuman physical characteristics more than once during the main show’s run. Examples of this include her ability to breathe underwater paired with transmutation into an aquatic creature form, insane stamina levels, as she is able to trek through jungles and mountains effortlessly, strength to lift sizable boulders (seen in the episode “The Big Red Chicken”), empathic mind influence, as she is able to successfully stop Swiper from stealing things every single episode and many more. 

Supernatural abilities aside, Dora has shown pride time and time again in her heritage. She is one of the first Latina cartoon characters in Western media. Though her exact ethnicity is unknown, she introduces herself in Spanish almost every episode, and teaches viewers words in Spanish regarding the plot of the day. Dora is a great example of how representation in children’s shows does not always make viewers feel excluded or distant from the characters, as children of all backgrounds can appreciate and have fun with the show, displaying her extraordinary ability to bring people together. Without a doubt, Dora’s adventures have captured the hearts of any child willing to explore them. 

Dora Márquez, a character shrouded in mystery, the face of childhood for over 21 million people in the United States alone, cannot and will not be forgotten as long as humanity nurtures and values its fine arts.