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Everyone knows of the popular Walt Disney company. They created many of everyone’s favorite childhood films from 1938’s “Snow White” to 2022’s “LightYear.” With Disney trying to change their films to really be more inclusive and to modernize their film to include all types of different families, some people do not agree with the changes that Disney is taking. Recently Halle Bailey, a famous American singer and now actress, became the lead role for the new remake of “The Little Mermaid” and many of Disney’s fans were not okay with this.
Many negative comments that were said about this news came from mostly white people. The official trailer came out September 9, 2022, and received more than 1.5 million dislikes right before YouTube removed the dislike counter, the trailer included Bailey singing one of Ariel’s most iconic songs. Many people debated whether the representation was “historically accurate” for a character of a fictional creature all because of her skin color and hair texture/hair-do.
First off, she’s a mermaid, people aren’t even sure what an accurate representation of a mermaid even looks like. Second, she’s half fish-half human, and a cartoon. She isn’t real, the actress is but everything in the movie is CGI even the fish and water are animated. Third, it’s a children’s movie it isn’t made to be accurate like a documentary, it is supposed to be fun and enjoyable for the whole family. It’s a live-adaptation remake of the older animated movie, it might not be going exactly the same. Bailey was a great choice for playing the lead role in “The Little Mermaid” because her voice and pitch match perfectly with Ariel. She represents the Black community allowing little girls to be whomever they want to be. Showing that representation will allow Black children to really feel accepted and have more role models to look up to, including “The Little Mermaid”.
TikTok videos go viral after the release of “The Little Mermaid” live-adaptation, the children watch as they see a beautiful mermaid who looks like them. They get excited and yell for joy “she looks like me,” and “mom, she’s beautiful” or even “oh my god, another Black princess.”
Even adults shed a few tears seeing the trailer wishing they had this princess growing up. But the backlash grew over all those happy viral videos, many white commenters saying things like how they don’t think it’s accurate and that “The Little Mermaid” is supposed to be white, not Black, that it’s “wrong.” Some even went as far as to say “The Little Mermaid isn’t Black” and “What if we made princess Tiana white?”
In “The Little Mermaid,” Ariel’s race isn’t central to her story, whereas princess Tiana’s race is. The primary antagonist is Dr. Facilier also known as “The Shadow Man,” and one of the supporting protagonists is an elderly woman named Mama Odie who is a voodoo priestess, which has cultural significance to voodoo in the Black and African community. There’s an alligator named Louis or Louie who plays the trumpet, he represents Louie Armstrong. Not only that but just from watching the film people can see how Tiana and her neighbors are segregated from the white people in the movie, which was racially based accurately for a movie based in the 1950s in Louisiana.
Even if someone made princess Tiana white, can you guess how many Black princesses would there be? None, at least none with their own movies. Now if they made Ariel Black there would only be two Black princesses, making it a seven-to-nine ratio. Not much of a significantly different impact, but by making Tiana white going from one to none.
The impact of representation would change very drastically. Disney only made movies about white princesses for 55 years before they introduced princess Jasmine in Aladdin in 1992, and they still found a way to make that movie racist and very stereotypical. Almost 72 years after introducing their first princess, they make a Black princess — Tiana from “Princess and the Frog” in 2009. Changing “The Little Mermaid” lead role to a Black princess would finally show how Black people don’t have to be the villain, side character, or even excluded altogether — they can be the hero or princess that every kid dreams of.
By: Zaylah De La Torre
Av Club: The Little Mermaid casting backlash is shameful, ridiculous—and all too predictable by Jack Smart
Daily Mail: ‘I’m SO proud of you and your beautiful performance’: Original Little Mermaid Jodi Benson publicly backs Disney’s live-action star Halle Bailey after trailer for new movie got 1.5 MILLION dislikes on YouTube amid racist backlash
Rolling Stone: Racists Are Worried About the Historical Accuracy of Mermaids by EJ Dickson
Featured Image Courtesy of Jim Winstead of Flickr – Creative Common Licences
Inset Image Courtesy of Loren Javier of Flickr – Creative Common Licences