Fixing What’s Broken
Up and down a scale of seashells and across the golden pillars of Atlantica, The Little Mermaid makes a reappearance as a black woman in theaters as of May 26, 2023. Ariel is back and she is 22 year-old Halle Bailey. Bailey’s dark skin color has sparked foolish controversy in the media, with people retaliating against the new production of melanin in a Disney Princess. If by now you’re also finding yourself having mixed feelings over a fictional fish whose best friend is a Reggae-loving crab, take some time to reflect on why you’re feeling that way.
After 33 years, a live action movie is in the making starring our favorite red-headed mermaid. Since being announced, Disney as well as Bailey have received immense backlash due to the new casting. Critics have absurdly refuted the new role of Ariel with the argument that the movie won’t have the same feel to it, for Bailey canonically does not have “pale skin, blue eyes, and bright red hair,” as she does in the original movie. People have also claimed that if the roles were reversed and Tiana from Disney’s Princess and the Frog was casted as a white person in a live-action recreation, fury would raid the internet. However, drawing equivalence between a racially motivated story and one where race has no impact on the plot is ridiculous. Tiana’s ethnicity contributes to her story, representing the inspiring history of African-Americans and their struggles endured in the 1920’s. Tiana is also based off of a real black woman: Leah Chase. Erasing Chase’s background and whitewashing Tiana as well as disregarding the magic of Voodoo (which originated from Africa) would be racist and ignorant. The point is, Ariel’s white skin is of no importance nor pertains to the moral of the movie. The fish girl still marries the love of her life and remains singing regardless of the color of her skin, eyes, and hair.
It’s known that Ariel has 6 sisters, with each sister representing the seven seas. Ariel represents the Red Sea, which is bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. So if we’re pointing fingers and if any Ariel were to be the “inaccurate” race, it would have been the initial Ariel from 1989. Not to mention the fact that Sebastian the crab is Jamaican, hence the accent. Mermaid mythology has also been developed in not only Europe but Western countries too. It’s a fictional ideology shared amongst many cultures, not just sacred and sanctioned to a specific race.
Bailey has thrilled hundreds and thousands of children and adults globally, even our students here at Maine West. “The new Little Mermaid movie is exciting to me because it’s another representative for the black community. It feels nice to have more portrayal for my community,” senior Rashonda Swygert said. The new Ariel is thrilling for the black community and we should be proud of the inclusion and progress the film industry has made throughout the years.
We’ve had this same exhausting conversation for years, but to be offended over an imaginary fairytale is crossing the line. The majority of Disney princesses are white, yet people still have the audacity to complain and fuss over Disney’s attempt to diversify the modern versions of their princesses. Representation matters, especially for many young black girls who deserve to see someone who looks like them and someone they can relate to.
October 26, 2022