The recent announcement of Disney’s live action remake of “The Little Mermaid” has been met with both excitement and disappointment. White people are not so fond of the idea of the new movie because they changed the appearance of the character. While some fans are eager to see a beloved classic reimagined, others are concerned that the movie will not remain true to the spirit of the original movie because Ariel is now Black.
This backlash erupted on Twitter with the hashtag #NotMyAriel, where white people expressed their disapproval of the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel. This hashtag expressed unhappiness among some fans who were expecting a white actress to play the role. It was also used by some to make fun of those criticizing the decision.
“The Little Mermaid” has also sparked considerable controversy on TikTok, with some fans arguing that the remake is unnecessary while others are looking forward to it. The reaction of little Black girls to Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” has been overwhelmingly positive, with many of them taking it to TikTok and on other social media platforms to celebrate their newfound representation.
Although some people continue to be skeptical, TikTok user @jillianrenae comments, “I’m only upset [because] it was the only ‘ginger’ princess and they didn’t pick a natural redhead. I grew up very insecure of my hair color.” Even though Halle Bailey’s hair was ginger in the movie, others such as @mariisntyourfather have replied saying, “[You do] know that African-Americans can be redheads right?” Others have also started to share the fact that Ariel isn’t the only Disney princess with red hair. It’s clear that the Little Mermaid remake has had a significant impact on young Black girls, giving them something to celebrate and a heroine to look up to. It’s a positive step forward for representation and a reminder that everyone should feel seen, heard, and respected in the entertainment industry.
The controversy largely stems from the fact that Disney chose Bailey, an African American actress, to take on the iconic role of Ariel. I find the controversy surrounding Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” to be deeply troubling. On one hand, I find it encouraging that the studio has taken steps to become more diverse and reflective of the world we live in, but on the other hand, I’m actively frustrated and disappointed by the fact that this diversity is only happening in such a limited capacity.
Growing up surrounded by princesses, only one of them looked like me as well as represented who I was. The rest were white. Seeing the new Little Mermaid live-action trailer made me happy, as I thought of the younger generation having more representation of themselves to look up to and not feeling as alone.
Marilyn Muñoz, a Franklin sophomore and member of BSU said, “[seeing the black younger generation] probably feeling like they can dress up as Ariel now or they can resonate with her character and just feel like they’re a part of something other than just like Princess Tiana.”
The younger Black generation need to be reminded time and time again that their stories matter and that they have a place in history. A live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” provides a unique opportunity for the Black community to show their strength, pride, and resilience through the celebration of a classic movie.
It feels as though much of the backlash from the film is based solely on the fact that Ariel is being portrayed by a non-white actress, which I believe to be rooted in racism and white supremacy. Muñoz also said, “It just seems like they’re trying to still push this agenda that we always are taking too much and asking for too much when we ask for diversity.”
This feeling is further compounded by the fact that the white actress chosen to play Ursula was not held to the same standards as Halle Bailey in terms of her singing abilities, despite the fact that both roles require a considerable amount of singing ability. This sends a message to the public, and especially to young girls, that white actors are held to different standards and given preferential treatment, ultimately perpetuating racist stereotypes and practices.