Two weeks ago Disney had their biennial D23 Expo: a convention where new releases are announced, teasers for upcoming media are displayed, and panels from actors and directors are held. Among the many new releases and trailers was a teaser for the upcoming live action adaptation of The Little Mermaid.
Playing Ariel is singer, songwriter, producer, and actress Halle Bailey. With her background as a cast member on Grown-ish and her career as one half of the music duo Chloe x Halle, Bailey is more than qualified for her role. However, White adults online seem to believe that Bailey hasn’t met all the requirements to play the mermaid. The issue they have is that unlike Ariel in the animated film, Halle is Black. They’re disappointed because, for once, a princess is being played by someone who doesn’t look like them.
Since its announcement in 2019, Bailey has been receiving hate and backlash for being casted as Ariel purely based on her skin color. A common critique about Halle’s Ariel is that she’s taking away representation for ginger kids. What they fail to recognize is that the animated Ariel has firetruck red hair, which no human can achieve naturally. The “representation” they are talking about is a reach, and if they really wanted ginger representation they should watch Pixar’s Brave.
Another problem that commentators seem to have is that Ariel being Black makes the adaptation untruthful. If they want accuracy, they should appoint a real mermaid to the casting director for the role. Ariel’s race does not add any importance to the story of The Little Mermaid like it does in movies like Mulan or The Princess and the Frog.
Luckily, our Bengals seem to have a brighter outlook on the casting for the movie. “I think that [Halle’s] very cool. I really like her voice. She’s a good fit,” says senior Ava Monroe.
“I don’t think it should matter whether she’s Black or white,” agrees fellow senior Cynthia Flores-Guzman.
In response to the trailer, there has been a trend going around on social media, specifically TikTok, of Black children reacting to Ariel being played by someone who looks like them. The children are overwhelmingly happy and excited, which is why it’s so infuriating to see white people complain. They see little kids experience Black joy and decide it’s a problem. A bunch of whining and racism over a fictional mermaid having a different skin tone then the original which is just a moving collection of lines and pixels.
For many Black people, young and old, having representation in media is something very important. Having a Disney princess be played by a Black woman is something that can inspire young Black and brown girls to be themselves. “I love [Halle.] I wish I had a Black Ariel when I was growing up,” comments senior Amber Pamah.
It isn’t often that we get to see a person of color casted as a lead in a Disney film. “I like to see [Disney] incorporate diversity in their movies. Even if it wasn’t Halle, if a woman of color was playing the role I would still support [the movie],” remarks Mr. Charles Hicks.
There is still progress to be made regarding diversity in Disney films, despite the increase of representation in past years. However, this casting is a step in the right direction.