The Little Mermaid receives racist backlash over diverse casting

SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Under the sea? More like under fire. On September 9, 2022, Disney released a trailer for its upcoming movie “The Little Mermaid,” and has received harsh criticism and racist backlash for its diverse casting.

Halle Bailey, a singer from the musical duo Chloe x Halle, was announced to play the role of teenage mermaid Ariel back in July 2019. Although fans were thrilled to see the diversity and inclusion Disney was adding, many people found it unimpressive that Disney had decided to change the race of said mermaid, when in the original film Ariel is portrayed as a white Danish girl. 

A postcard featuring Disney’s 1989 version of “The Little Mermaid” Credit: Flickr

Though it is true that Disney’s live-action remakes tend to receive an absurd amount of criticism, The Little Mermaid’s backlash seems to blatantly be racially motivated this time around. Many nostalgic fans have taken to Twitter to unload a series of comments regarding the skin color of the mermaid.

As Ariel was originally white, many fans believe that the change of race could be considered “Cultural Appropriation.” The matter is being compared to if she were originally a person of color, saying that the uproar would have been immensely worse.

Some of the criticism and statements Twitter fans have expressed about the film
Credit: Sylvia Lopez
Some of the criticism and statements Twitter fans have expressed about the film
Credit: Sylvia Lopez

While some seem to not like the casting of Bailey, others have given immense support for the film, expressing their love for the inclusion of a POC character portraying a favorite Disney princess.

Jane Peralta, a senior at Silver Creek high school, comments, “Ariel being a POC is amazing. It breaks the restrictive stereotypes in the film that fair complexions are desirable because princesses are usually portrayed as white. Usually, it harms little girls who are POC that are conditioned to believe there can’t ever be people who look like them in movies.The fact that people are making racist comments is saddening because many girls of color have been waiting for this moment to arrive.”

Bailey has also commented on the matter, “I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special and that they should be a princess in every single way.” (Variety.com) She has also opened up about the amount of support she’s been receiving from family and friends, creating reassurance for her.

Along with the entire controversy revolving around the mermaid, parents have created a new TikTok trend that shows the reactions of their children seeing a Disney Princess that looks like them. These children watch the trailer, and when Bailey appears on the screen parents record the child, catching a heartwarming and brightening reaction.

Regardless if Ariel has light or dark skin, it is important to remember that mermaids are mythical creatures. “The Little Mermaid” is set to release on May 26, 2023. 

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