“The Little Mermaid” Casting Misses the Mark

Damielys Duarte/Staff Writer

Disney has impacted the lives of children for nearly a century, and they’ve been remaking many of their classics to restore their original magic. 

But the multi-billion dollar company may have missed the mark when they announced that the “Little Mermaid” remake, set to hit theaters in 2020, has casted a black actress to play Ariel.

Halle Bailey, known for her role in the Freeform show “Grown-ish,” was chosen as the new Ariel due to her “rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role,” according to director Rob Marshall.

And while this may be true, the decision was solely based on a political and financial move by the company.

The concept of whitewashing has been around for decades now and continues to be hotly debated. It’s obvious that Disney wants to be more racially inclusive, and I have no qualms with that.

However, it shouldn’t be at the cost of rebranding an entire movie and a well-known character.

Many people on Twitter expressed similar sentiments; Twitter user “the dude everyone hates” wrote, “Wanting an accurate representation of Ariel’s character in the big screen doesn’t make anyone Racist or less accessible to those changes, leave the classics ALONE, if everyone wants princesses from different ethnicities and colors etc, make new tales.”

User Ariana Castro said, “My problem with Ariel is she’s completely different to what her original design is. It’s not racist to feel that a character isn’t accurately represented… but if we call out blackwashing and a cash grab at diversity… we are the a—holes.”

Just because Ariel is a mythical creature and not required to be “culturally accurate” doesn’t change the fact that Disney is trying to increase profits with their choice of actor and racial representation.

The same way we praised the production of “The Princess and the Frog” for its first ever black princess and cultural significance, we must give the same respect to classics. The same way we wouldn’t appreciate a white remake of Tiana, we need to accept the race Ariel was made with, especially since, besides Merida from “Brave,” there are no other redheaded princesses in Disney history.

This will also be reflected through the company’s marketing strategy. We can expect a deviation from the light-skinned, blue-eyed beauty towards a more racially accurate profile of Bailey, but does that mean old Ariel merch will stop being sold? Would it even be appropriate to sell both Ariels side by side?

More than anything, I’m concerned about the kids who grew up with the original “Little Mermaid.” Much like how changes to the original voice actors in a sequel effectively kill the movie, so would be hiring a completely different actress from what was advertised for decades.

In the end, it’s sad that the move for a racially different Ariel, like all things in our generation, was motivated by politics and profits: two things that should stay far away from children’s movies and the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Featured photo from Flickr.

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