By Maia Venuti
Disney released the trailer for the new highly anticipated live-action movie “The Little Mermaid” on Sept. 9. Scheduled to be released in May of 2023, the film will star Halle Bailey as Ariel. The trailer created waves of controversy immediately following its release, with many people upset over the fact that Halle Bailey is a Black woman, despite Ariel originally being drawn as white in the original movie.
Typically, there is a bit of backlash whenever Disney releases a new live-action remake of one of their classic films. The complaints usually come from people who claim that Disney is playing off nostalgia for classic movies and marketing off the audience's emotions. However, this situation is different.
This time, all of the backlash and outcries are entirely centered on Halle Bailey’s race. Within just a couple of weeks, the official “The Little Mermaid” trailer on YouTube received over 1.5 million dislikes.
Across the internet, people, specifically white Christians, have vocalized their opinions on the matter, even creating a Facebook group called “Christians Against the Little Mermaid (Boycott Halle Bailey)”, which is now deleted, dedicated to Christians against the new “The Little Mermaid” film. In these groups, most of what is being posted are just incredibly racist memes about the film which come at Halle Bailey’s expense.
A large number of these people allege that their opinions and dislike for the new Ariel is about the movie being accurate, not about racism, but that can be disputed by simply taking a cursory glance at the things being said online. Fortunately, most of these groups have been deleted by Facebook since their creation.
Based on my own observations, for the most part, most of the people who are speaking out about the movie are white Christian men. Many of these men have felt the need to take to social media to vocalize their disdain for Bailey being in the new film. One person on Twitter even made an AI over Halle Bailey’s face of a white redhead to “fix The Little Mermaid.”
Another common argument justifying their anger is that because mermaids live underwater, far from the sun, they “wouldn’t need any melanin in their skin.” One man went so far as to post a video in blackface, mocking the trailer and Halle Bailey.
In recent years, Disney has made an effort to better represent everyone in their films, from racial minorities to members of the LGBTQ+ community in “Lightyear.” The film’s marketing heavily emphasizes the fact that Buzz's best friend is a lesbian, but then they kill the character off 10 minutes after introducing her. The character has no significance to the film aside from being the grandmother to someone Buzz later befriends.
While the effort to be diverse has been minimal in many capacities, politically incorrect people treat these instances of representation as if the company is taking something from them. Of course, with any Disney film where there is the inclusion of a marginalized character, there is always a fringe group of people waiting to tear these movies apart.
While the trailer was met with praise and excitement by the majority of people, this small minority of racist “fans” of “The Little Mermaid” has overpowered the conversation. Because of this, there has been a lot of discourse and back-and-forth between supporters of the film and the people spewing these hateful views.
Supporters of the movie defend it and Halle Bailey, saying that the movie is entirely fictional, so there is no such thing as an accurate mermaid because mermaids aren’t real. They also call attention to the fact that these people have racist motivations and that their outrage over the movie is due to their racism, and no other reason. Supporters are also praising the film's casting because of the joy it has sparked amongst young Black girls and their parents, with hundreds of videos of girls' reacting to the trailer and seeing a princess that looks like them.
In all, the hate that the film is getting is completely unwarranted, racist and outright disgusting. But despite all the hate, the love and acceptance that Halle Bailey is receiving from the rest of the world is incredible. The support from the masses makes this live action remake much more exciting and makes its release more anticipated.