Carmen Sandiego’s evolution from villain to hero


Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego inspired us to briefly look back at her mischievous past and share why we think her new role as a modern-day Robin Hood is a good thing.

Carmen Sandiego has been an international icon for more than 30 years. To prove it, Netflix whipped up an interactive experience over at in preparation for the new series. It demonstrates how she’s been a trailblazer and influencer (with incredible style) over the years. Now, it’s time to change things up and modernize parts of her story for today’s generation of kids.

Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego is a refreshing and entertaining reboot. Instead of falling into the edgy, gritty, and sexy trend, the series embraces its roots in a vibrant, positive, and progressive way. Most importantly, it turned the titular character from a thieving villain to a Robin Hood-like hero who steals from other thieves.

Photo Credit: Netflix

Now, I have a secret to confess. Growing up, I never realized Carmen Sandiego was a master thief until recently.

It’s strange to admit, but my young mind didn’t pick up on the detail and it didn’t pop up anywhere else as I got older. I just remember her iconic red look while playing the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego CD-ROM game 20 years ago and traveling the world using my aunt’s blue iMac G3.

When the Netflix series was announced, that’s when reality hit me. I was curious about the things she and her VILE henchman stole over the years and some of it was silly, like the Colosseum or Australia’s koalas. Other things were of great historical importance, like the Rosetta Stone, the Liberty Bell, and the Mona Lisa. In learning more about her and her role as a ringleader of a criminal organization, it made me even happier to know the new series turned her from thief to hero.

Some, however, aren’t pleased with the change. There are various opinions across social media, from “I didn’t care she was a villain” to “How do you make a reboot and change Carmen from a villain to a Robin Hood-esque hero?”

“She is still the world’s best superthief,” said executive producer Caroline Fraser in an interview with Variety when asked about the approach in creating this new version. “She still has the red hat and the trench coat; she’s still traveling around the world; she’s still dealing with the dual forces of VILE and ACME in every episode. She is still about action and adventure, but then you have to bring something new to it.”

Photo Credit: Netflix

While I understand people are upset about Carmen being repurposed as a hero, there are plenty of other villains in the series, like Tigress, Paper Star, and the professors leading VILE. To be honest, I would not have watched the show had they gone with the thieving and villainous route for Carmen. Granted, she was never evil or cruel in the past. She was more mischievous in nature.

That said, stealing historical artifacts is not fun. Recovering artifacts from the bad guys and returning them to museums for the public to admire and learn from, however, is fun. I’m a Latina who was an archaeology major in college and went into archival studies in graduate school, so maybe I’m a tad biased.

The show, above all else, is about learning different cultures and expanding our views of the world. Given the fragile nature of history and how it can easily disappear, I think it’s cooler to have a Latina hero saving and protecting precious historical artifacts instead of stealing them and perpetuating a stereotype about Latinos that’s all too common in movies and television.

Photo Credit: Netflix

“One thing that is so beautiful about Carmen’s story is that she was taught one way of living; however, when she was capable of learning other aspects of the world, she realized that her upbringing was not the way that she wanted to be,” said Gina Rodriguez in an interview with Brit + Co when asked why she took the iconic role. “She didn’t want to be a thief. She didn’t want to steal from people that couldn’t afford it. I love being a part of that new narrative for her.”

And I think that’s an important narrative to expose to children nowadays.

We live in a day and age where the harsh realities of the world are constantly popping up on our feeds. We need to see more acts of good and less destructive behaviors, and Netflix’s version of Carmen Sandiego is an example of that.

10 best moments from Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego. light. Read

Watch Carmen Sandiego’s new series of adventures around the world on Netflix.