The new trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid features a Black actress in the title role. Conflicting responses from young children and racist adults prove why Ariel’s new casting is so important.
Scheduled for a 2023 release, a live-action The Little Mermaid has created buzz since it was first announced in 2016.
When Halle Bailey, a young Black musician – and five-time Grammy award winner alongside her sister Chlöe – would be playing Ariel, internet commentary racked up a notch.
Since then we’ve only been party to piecemeal snippets of production, like pixelated snaps of Bailey and co-star Jonah Hauer-King filming on a beach in Sardinia.
But last week Disney finally released the first teaser trailer for the film. The one-and-a-half-minute video sees Bailey sitting beneath the ocean on a rock, singing the chorus of famed song ‘Part of That World’.
Despite its relatively uneventful content, the trailer has caused an enormous media buzz – almost all of which centres around the colour of Bailey’s skin.
Fans of the original film have called out Disney’s new casting for ‘weaking their faithfulness to the original story’. Others have accused Bailey’s role of tick-boxing.
Before YouTube removed options to ‘dislike’ it, the trailer had amounted more than 2 million thumbs down from viewers, and countless derogatory comments mocking Bailey’s appearance.
Whether they’re disguised as gatekeeping the ‘accuracy’ of the story, or – one of the more bizarre – concerns that Bailey’s Ariel denies red-heads an important point of representation, response to the film has been undoubtedly racist.
As Bailey’s supporters have pointed out, efforts to maintain the ‘original Little Mermaid’ are unfounded for a plethora of reasons – not least because the true ‘original’ was a thinly veiled queer love story with a tragic ending.
Other critics have suggested its ‘historically inaccurate’ for mermaid to be Black. Perhaps they’ve yet to realise that mermaids are fictional, mythical beings.
Claims that The Little Mermaid is pushing a ‘woke agenda’ through ‘forced diversity’ are particularly bemusing.
Twitter has exploded with self-pitying commentary that white people are ‘being replaced’ when Black actors are cast in roles they were previously excluded from. But white people have played non-white characters since time immemorial.