That’s My Ariel

The Little Mermaid fans rave over the live-action casting

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photo credit: courtesy IMDb

Little mermaid, big deal \\ The new live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” rouses controversy over who can play the role of Ariel and simultaneously exposes racial discrimination in the country.

writer: Gloria Olajimi, Copy Editor

In recent years, Disney has recycled its beloved classics into live-action adaptations- The Lion King, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin to name a few. On Sept. 9, Disney released a trailer for its latest remake of The Little Mermaid; however, what was meant to spark excitement only galvanized heated fans. 

 

But what’s frustrating to fans is a factor that does not affect the characters, the plot, or the message of the movie, but a factor that blatantly reveals the racism plaguing this country: the actress who plays Ariel is Halle Bailey, a black woman. 

 

Arguments against her casting generally fall along the lines of “she looks nothing like the cartoon Ariel.” Ever since the movie was announced to release in 2019, fans have taken their outrage to Twitter with the hashtag #notmyariel and even formed a petition against her casting. 

The message of many Disney films is the power of believing; by providing a mermaid who looks like the black audience, the creators inspire black kids to believe they can be who they want to be, that they, too, can be a mermaid, journey under the sea, or fall in love.”

— Gloria Olajimi, copy editor

Of course,  the live-action should hold true to the original movie to please its viewers and become successful. However, the actress being black changes nothing about the important elements to Ariel’s character: her naivety and free spirit, her famous songs, or her gorgeous red locks.

 

Fans argue that if casting directors changed the race of minority princesses such as Tiana or Mulan in a live-action film, others would feel just as frustrated. However, the race of those characters was the foundation of their hero’s journeys- Mulan was a Chinese warrior who saved China and Tiana started her own restaurant despite growing up in a poor, segregated black neighborhood. Ariel’s skin color added nothing to her character; the actor’s race makes no difference because mermaids have no race. 

 

Furthermore, those supporting the “not my ariel” fiasco are adults, not the young audience the movie is primarily directed towards. It makes no difference to the new generation of fans who plays the mermaid, as long as the story follows a princess who finds her prince. If anything, the movie will only provide more representation for young black girls. The message of many Disney films is the power of believing; by providing a mermaid who looks like the black audience, the creators inspire black kids to believe they can be who they want to be, that they, too, can be a mermaid, journey under the sea, or fall in love.

 

Additionally, the role of Ariel suits Halle Bailey for her skills as a soprano voice and acting. She and her sister Chloe Bailey are a renowned musical duo who have received five Grammy nominations since 2018. Halle is also known for her role as Sky in the Freeform series “Grownish” and is currently working on another movie adaptation for the acclaimed musical “The Color Purple”. Her success as an actress and artist makes Halle exceedingly qualified for the part.

 

Although many deny that the situation has any relation to racial discrimination, I fail to see how the issue says anything but. Even if one is dissatisfied with the cast results, that is no justification for the death threats or the disdainful hate speech Halle Bailey has received over the past two years. This hateful behavior does not demonstrate the dignity, patriotism, or character we preach as adults, as parents, or as American people. 

 

The live-action Little Mermaid releases in theaters next year on May 26, and whether fans will love it or hate it we will not know until the fateful day arrives. Until then, viewers should evaluate the reason for their frustration and perhaps consider supporting the deserving Halle Bailey who is not a new Ariel, but the Ariel which has always been- our Ariel.