The Little Mermaid – Now Synonymous with Backlash


And then there was backlash. 


In the third year since its 2019 announcement, The Little Mermaid’s trailer dropped and with it came a wave of backlash. Given a sneak peek at this year’s D23 Expo, it was a marrying of a childhood story to technology which quickly and unfortunately bred hate and animosity in alarming numbers.  So much so that YouTube had to hide the original trailer’s dislike counter as over 1.5 million “dislikes” quickly accumulated, and the comment section became bombarded with not so friendly comments. 


Ariel, the fictional character of Hans Christian Anderson’s 1837 story, The Little Mermaid, is being played by 22-year-old singer and actress, Halle Bailey, in this live-action remake set for a May 26th, 2023 premiere. Shockingly (yet unsurprisingly), what seems to be having a surprising number of people rattled is the fact that Halle Bailey is in complete contrast to Hans’ Ariel. As Bailey is a black woman with dreadlocks and doesn’t reflect the picture of Ariel which we’ve grown to know, disapproving folks have publicly aired the ways in which they’re unhappy with the casting for the traditionally white role. Especially as the Academy Award winning film’s 1989, 2000 and 2008 Ariels are all white.    


For people looking on, they see this backlash in two lights: racially fuelled or propelling the woke,black agenda. Those seeing nothing but color, their disapproval of Halle as Ariel scream “How dare a black woman step into a space all-knowingly designated for a race that isn’t theirs in such a world famous role?” The comments all pointed to the fact that Ariel isn’t a silky red head with a too-tiny waist and lest we forget her skin. There was also a Twitter incident where a user’s account was suspended over their praise of another user’s remake of the trailer. According to the Twitter user whose account got suspended, @vandalibm, the AI artist @TenGazillionIQ, who has their PhD in Artificial Intelligence, “fixed The Little Mermaid and turned the woke actor into a ginger white girl”. However, he made sure to inform everyone that posting the revised version of the trailer is simply for educational purposes and doesn’t represent anything racist. On the contrary, an argument that supports the singer and actress’ role, is that since Ariel is a mythical creature, then in truth and in fact, Ariel for this remake could have been any race, even Indian or Latina. 


It is quite apparent that worldwide, there is an issue with the upcoming live action remake. With Ariel’s appearance in direct conflict with the core attachment we have undoubtedly grown to have of the Little Mermaid: No pale skin and no red hair? Truly, who are you? Folks such as Taric Corbin, who isn’t up in a twist over whoever plays the role, he’s more concerned with the purity of the story, which to him, now feels tarnished. It, according to him, feels like the movie is feeding into the woke culture and the black agenda and had this to say, “It doesn’t make sense. As much as I appreciate the rise of black culture in the states and everything, it just feels like forced wokeism. Ariel was always known as a Caucasian woman and now all of a sudden she’s black for the sake of wokeness, you know? What if the next Black Panther character to replace Chadwick Boseman was a white man? Even if he was a white man from Africa y’all would have cried. This is not hating on her because she’s black, what the fuck. It’s just that all of a sudden Ariel’s black for no reason and with no context. This is also not racism. For one I’m a black man from the caribbean. I have nothing against my own people and I’m glad a black person gets a big influential acting role. I just don’t see how Ariel who was once white is now black and we are beating people, especially down here, for bleaching. So reverse bleaching is okay?”


Taric continued, “How is this any different from when Scarlett Johansson was cast for the lead for Ghost in the Shell which is based on a Japanese manga? I love Scarlett Johansson, my girlfriend could attest, but I can side with the Asian and Anime community’s right to be upset. I just wish they focused on bringing light to already black characters in a big way like Black Panther or just make new characters to fill the space that’s been left. Or, here’s a wild thought, come up with something new? Something that easily allows black characters without raised brows? Too wild?” He ended on a sarcastic note. 


At this point, it’s hard to stay neutral. You’re either for the casting or against it, as the internet has clearly highlighted that there is indeed a divide. To note is the fact that the hashtag #notmyariel began floating around which, to be honest, can’t be a complete shocker, to you.

Today, if you’re to venture to YouTube comments of Disney’s account, due to Disney deleting offensive comments, the disapproving mass of people have chosen another tactic. People, instead of hurling out the denigrate comments, have become good-natured but with ill intent. They spewed and continue to spew their dislike in “nice ways” via writing about parts in the trailer they loved and which touched them. However, if you pay attention, none of those things actually happened. These comments mostly start with “the part where”, but they’re far from genuine. Example “The part where Ariel says ‘Well, my name is Ariel YO, my husband is Prince Eric YO’ sent shivers down my spine and will forever have a place in my heart”  or “The part where Ariel said ‘Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?’ brought tears to my eyes. Absolutely magnificent!” even “The part where Ariel lights up a cigar, sips her sparkling water and asks Ursula ‘what colour is your Bugatti?’ had me in tears. Truly one of the films that has been made.” 


What should have hit theaters, made its impact and then just slowly faded from the media, has been quite the headline maker. There are those who could care less about the movie, but sympathize with folks a little mad that the character doesn’t reflect that of the book, like Taric, a Purist at heart.  Being upset at the misrepresentation of a character has nothing to do with racism.  Be honest, if a white actress were to play the princess in The Princess and the Frog, would there be outrage across the internet?


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