OPINION: Halle Bailey rises as Ariel from under a sea of hate

Sep 23, 2022 | Et Cetera, OP-ED, Opinion

When Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel in the new Little Mermaid live-action movie, some fans were livid because a Black woman was set to play the famous mermaid.

Yet, the boiling point would tip over on Sept. 9 when a trailer was released, quickly going viral and amassing 20 million views. The trailer garnered one million likes accompanied by two million dislikes almost as quickly.

An online campaign of outrage was spawned in an instant.

The original 1989 Little Mermaid animation was based on a Danish folk tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It depicted Ariel with pale white skin and bright red hair. Halle Bailey, while beautiful and sporting an angelic singing tone, is a departure from the mermaid plastered in popular memory.

But as she sang the words of “Part Of Your World” in the trailer she was Ariel.

Parents worldwide quickly took to social media to post their kids’ bright reactions. Young Black girls shed tears across smiling faces as they finally had their live-action princess, it was a heartwarming sight.

But not all were touched. For some, it has become a case of erasure.

“From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean,” were the words of Matt Walsh, a popular American right-wing political commentator.

Well, scientifically, Mermaids don’t exist, so why are we arguing about race?

Ariel is a fictional character, everything in the movie is imaginary. The only thing that should be considered for a role is talent, not skin colour. As long as Halle Bailey can sing — which she can — she should be Ariel.

Embed from Getty Images

Why is it only considered “woke” casting when it involves a person of colour, while in the past, Disney cast white actors to play BIPOC characters?

Some say Disney should have just created a new storyline with a strong Black lead rather than recycling old movies. Arguing the trend of race and gender swapping in Hollywood in recent years can sometimes feel like virtue signaling.

Virtue signaling or not, the very real impact a single Disney princess can have on millions of kids cannot be understated. Kids like Halle Bailey once was.

“What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything,” Bailey said. “I want 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.

“There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. That reassurance was something that I needed,” she said.

I feel as though there’s too much negativity being aimed at Bailey, she’s a talented young actress and that’s what matters. There are more important things we should be worrying about rather than the race of an imaginary mermaid.

There is a worldwide pandemic, people starving, the threat of a Third World War, and we have major environmental issues. Fighting progressive representation in Disney films should be last on the list.