Racist Backlash Against The Little Mermaid

Racist Backlash Against The Little Mermaid

Abena Antwi, Reporter

Ever since the teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid was released in September 2022, the live-action adaptation has received harsh backlash and attacks. This teaser revealed that Halle Bailey, an African American singer and actress, would be playing the role of Ariel, the protagonist in the film. The main source of outrage has come from white, mostly conservative, individuals who believe that a black woman playing Ariel ruins the portrayal and plot of the story.

The controversy lies in the fact that traditionally, Ariel has been portrayed as a white, red-headed mermaid. Opponents argue that casting a black woman goes against the original perception of the character. This is instead an excuse to justify internalized racism. Racists have also tried to make other arguments to prove that Ariel could not be black. These arguments include, “People who live under the sea can’t have darker skin,” and “Mermaids are a European mythological figure,” and “Making Ariel Black is ruining childhoods.” 

The backlash against Bailey’s role is not surprising, considering the lack of representation in productions. Bailey’s casting represents progress for diversity and representation in Hollywood. For far too long, mainstream films and productions have been dominated by white actors and actresses. According to a study by Mckinsey & Company, black actors play only 11% of lead film roles, and they are often limited to race-related projects. This demonstrates the underrepresentation of African Americans in the entertainment industry. As directors cast more minority groups in lead roles, this gap will hopefully decrease.

Instead of focusing on the race or ethnicity of various actors, we should instead focus on whether or not they are suitable for the role. Director Rob Marshall describes Halle Bailey as possessing “a rare combination of spirit, heart, innocence, and substance,” making her a great fit for the role. Regardless of all the hate the movie has received, there is no doubt that Halle Bailey will play the role of Arie beautifully. Make sure to check out the movie in theaters on May 26, 2023!