Progression and Regression Under the Sea

Laila G.

Laila G.

Roxanne M., Co-Editor-in-Chief

Back in 2019, Disney announced that the beloved movie, The Little Mermaid, would be made into a live-action movie. Many fans of the movie were ecstatic, hoping that Disney would exceed in translating the film into live-action. However, this joy was short-lived as it was also announced that Ariel, the main character, would be played by Halle Bailey, an actress, and R&B singer. This sparked controversy, as unlike the original Ariel in the 1989 Disney movie, Bailey is not a white woman. This prompted many people to begin spewing racist comments, trying to justify why she could not be Ariel. For example, in 2019, the hashtag #NotMyAriel was trending, with many people showing their disdain for the new casting.  

In order to challenge the changes being made, people resorted to trying to find anything wrong with the casting. Many had worried that Halle Bailey’s voice would not live up to Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel. Further reasoning against Bailey’s Ariel was the fact that Ariel was Danish, which apparently meant that Ariel could not be black. This argument is absurd as Danish is a nationality, not a race, meaning that Danish people can be black. Moreover, more arguments were being made that due to the depth of the sea, it would be impossible for Ariel to be black, as no sunlight reaches the deep sea. This argument is not valid, as melanin does not come from the sun. It just showed how people were just searching for any reason to fight back against the representation of other cultures and races.

Now that the first trailer was revealed at D23 Expo, where Disney announced several projects due to release in upcoming years, people find issues with the trailer itself. They have tried to say that the visuals are boring and that it does not have the vibrancy of the original movie. What the naysayers refuse to acknowledge is that the original is animated, meaning that there are colors within the original film that will not translate to real life. 

Another issue that has been brought up is the vibrancy of Ariel’s hair. Ariel is most known for her bright red hair, and once seeing the trailer people noticed that Bailey’s hair was ginger, rather than bright red. Again, this received backlash, as people do not understand that Ariel’s fire engine red hair is not common in real life unless it is dyed to be so. No one had a problem when Cinderella did not have yellow hair in the live-action version, so why question hair now?  A live-action movie is supposed to mimic real life, not animation.

Overall, Ariel is a fish, a mythological creature made up for people to enter the world of fantasy. Whether she is black or white, she is still a little mermaid.


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