Does the Racism Debate Surrounding “The Little Mermaid” Actually Hold Water?
Perhaps more popular among the millennials and some baby boomers, The Little Mermaid is by far among the biggest carton films ever created. Originally produced in 1989 the feature-length cartoon film is set to make a comeback at Disney in May 2023, now as a live-action movie. The film has for many months proven to attract anticipation from fans of Disney across the world.
However, things took a new twist as soon as the #NotMyAriel started making rounds on Twitter, with some (white) fans expressing disappointment in Disney for choosing an African American actress to play the role of Ariel in the movie. As expected, the infamous hashtag would attract all sorts of comments for and against it, eventually turning into a link about racism.
But, really, does the racism debate surrounding “The Little Mermaid” actually hold water? Is it actually racist to demand that Ariel’s role be played by a white character as was in the original cartoon?
The Hashtag is said to have started trending around the fourth of June when Americans were happily celebrating Independence Day. This was shortly after Disney’s announcement that Gownish’s star Halle Bailey, a woman of color was included in the cast to play the role of Ariel (the little mermaid) in the iconic live-action movie.
Many white Disney fans felt outraged and consequently took to Twitter, ravenously expressing their disappointment in Disney for “tainting” their memories from childhood. In the original Little Mermaid cartoon of 1989, Ariel was a white, blue-eyed redhead cartoon character, so the critics felt robbed of their childhood memories in a way.
Some also saw it as disrespect to the folk tale’s Scandinavian origins. And as the racism debate around ‘The Little Mermaid’ continues some fans of Halle Bailey have even gone ahead and made edits to Disney’s official trailer, adding lighting to it. Some have even taken it a notch higher and edited her hair to look caucasian.
It is okay to have an opinion or dislike some things in life. After all, it’s a free world. With this in mind and the fact that the original red-haired Ariel was white, it is easy to see where the critics of a black Ariel are coming from. As a matter of fact, it’s not exactly racist to have a contrary opinion or dislike Disney’s selection of the persons to play the little mermaid’s role.
However, it can easily be racist depending on how you express your disappointment. This, for instance, could be the case for the trolls posting aggressive remarks about the matter literally everywhere online. As a matter of fact, those who make retaliatory remarks to such comments and social posts could actually come out as racist.
Diversity and Changing Demographics
It is no secret that most of Disney’s characters have been white for decades, from princesses to superheroes. But perhaps more than the rest of the world, the US has evolved over the years to become one of the most diverse countries in terms of race, culture, and ethnicity despite its setbacks stemming from political stances. It’s been led by a black president for two terms and has had a woman of color as a vice president.
To add to this, folklore and cultural traditions have always had to adapt to changing demographics and social values, especially with children or future generations in mind. It is not unusual to find that some critics of Disney’s new Arial have African American grandchildren now or in some years to come.
Before one bows low to their disappointment, it is crucial to weigh the value between their (future) children’s experiences and their own past. And while you can’t exactly be colorblind to a movie’s details, this could as well be Hollywood’s way of adding diversity to the screens.
Really, The Little Mermaid racism debate is just not worth too much effort indulging into. Most sources view the backlash as a small controversy, and it is highly unlikely that Disney would even consider recasting Ariel’s role. Higher chances are that the movie will be a hit despite the racism debate that doesn’t seem to hold much water!