We’re here for the red dreads, angelic voice and melanin for Disney’s live-action adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale.
Bailey is one half of the sister-singing duo Chloe x Halle. She will be playing the wide-eyed, rebellious teen mermaid daughter of King Triton. The Little Mermaid Princess, Ariel longs to live on dry land after listening to her grandmother’s stories about life on land.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Brandy, Memoirs of a Geisha) will helm the film. "After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role,” Marshall said.
Halle, 19, is signed to Beyonce’s label, Parkwood Entertainment and plays a supporting role on the Black-ish spin off show, Grown-ish with Yara Shahidi.
While this is an exciting time for the songstress, there has been some backlash against a Black girl playing a traditionally White, fictional character. From microaggressions referring to the film as “Lil Mermaid” to people flat out accusing Disney of tainting their childhood memories with their politically correct agenda. There’s even #NotMyAriel trending on Twitter.
People are comparing the casting for Ariel to casting “George Clooney to play Malcolm X” not realizing that there is a huge difference between playing a fictional sea creature who was written in the 1800s to playing an historical figure. Luckily, the racist hashtag has been taken over by supporters of Halle Bailey (not to be confused with Halle Berry) to be play Ariel.
Here is the breakdown of why it’s bothersome to White people.
Since the dawn of motion pictures, fairy tales, positive images of White people have been everywhere. White representation in television and film has always been the status quo. They have never had to worry about needing representation. So, they do not understand that seeing their childhood fairy tales re-imagined with Black actors makes them uncomfortable. Nevermind that White actors have traditionally been cast as historical persons of color, fictional or otherwise, throughout cinematic history.
Katherine Hepburn played the Chinese protagonist Jade Tan in 1944’s Dragon Seed, where she wore prosthetic eyelids. Black, Chinese, Japanese, Arab, Persian, Middle Eastern characters—there’s a long history of being portrayed by White actors. White people are okay with it because they are the status quo. What they fail to understand is that as society continues to become more equal, so, too, does representation. It took Disney 70 years to create THE FIRST BLACK DISNEY PRINCESS with Tiana in The Princess and the Frog.
There is a fear that equality means that something is being taken away from White people and that simply is not true. It means we ALL will have more to enjoy! And little Black girls can envision themselves as mermaid princesses too! They can see a mermaid who looks like them, too! The operative word here is “too.” As well.
Besides, Halle Bailey is talented and director Rob Marshall is famous for creating cinematic masterpieces. Bailey, together with Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Awkwafina as Scuttle with Alan Menken, the composer of the original The Little Mermaid—it’s looking to be an outstanding film.
If you are still unconvinced that the Atlanta native will be able to do justice to Ariel in this live-action musical, here is a little more evidence.
However, if the problem you are having is getting past her skin color, perhaps you should ask yourself why you are uncomfortable—why must The Little Mermaid be White in your eyes? Tradition? Understand what tradition is and recognize that some traditions just aren’t meant to last. Representation matters.