The new Ariel

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The new Ariel

Collage made by Seymone Russell

Collage made by Seymone Russell

Collage made by Seymone Russell

Collage made by Seymone Russell

Seymone Russell, Editor

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Word of the new live-action Little Mermaid film had been swirling around the internet for a little while. People were excited to see who would play the role of their favorite childhood character. I mean some people even started picking their own characters for the role. Now, it would seem like when the actor playing Ariel was finally released, the people on social media would be absolutely ecstatic but it was actually quite the opposite. Why you may ask? Well, let me tell you why. On July 3rd, Disney announced that Halle Bailey would be playing the role of Ariel in the new live-action film. Now I know this news doesn’t seem like much, but once I add another small piece of information it’ll all make sense. Halle Bailey is an African American woman. When I heard of this news not only did I think nothing of it, I was excited. According to my timeline, I was one of a few people that felt this way. 

First, we should start off by introducing the actor who was automatically judged before people even found out who she was (yes this is shade). Halle Bailey, now 19 years old, is known for forming an R&B duo with her sister, Chloe Bailey (21 years old). The two sisters started out by singing covers of well-known songs on their youtube channel. The videos did pretty well, each cover racking up over one million views. In 2013, Beyonce recognized the sisters after seeing their cover of her popular song “Pretty Hurts”. She eventually signed them to her label, Parkwood Entertainment, and currently serves as their mentor. After being signed, the sisters began to get popular (being associated with Beyonce helped quite a bit). In 2018, Chloe and Halle released an album called “The Kids are Alright” (All of the songs on the album are bops, I highly recommend you listen to it). Their work on the album allowed them to be nominated for two awards at the 61st annual Grammy Awards. The sisters have recently been spending their time on the set of “Grown-ish”, a spinoff of a TV show called “Black-ish” focused on a group of teens in college, where they have recurring roles and are working on new music to release. 

So far I know it seems like Halle Bailey is a nice fit for the role of Ariel. She obviously has a nice voice and she has had some acting experience. Let’s not forget to add the fact that she is absolutely stunning. What could be so wrong? Well according to social media, everything. The fans of the original “Little Mermaid” did not like the idea of Ariel being playing by an African American woman instead of a white woman. 

Some people claim that they simply want Ariel to mimic the way she looked during their childhoods. This includes the character having pale skin, rosy cheeks, and long red hair. They claim that changing the race of the character will destroy their childhood nostalgia. Some people even went as far as to call it cultural appropriation and racist. They even proposed the idea of giving Tiana, the only African American Disney princess in the movie “The Princess and the Frog”, lighter colored skin in order to “get even”.  

This whole situation is honestly funny to me. All I hear are a bunch of people tiptoeing around one topic, too afraid to say what they actually feel. The fact of the matter is that people don’t want to see a black woman thriving as an actress especially if she takes over a role that was originally played by a white woman. People are so used to seeing us portrayed as baby mommas and angry black girls that they can’t take it when we finally get a real role in a movie. All of these pathetic cries and whines are just excuses. Just say you’re ignorant and move on. 

The excuse that the change in Ariel’s character will ruin their childhood is the worst. There is literally one black princess, ONE. Meaning your childhood was filled with white princesses. Think about all of the little black girls not being able to see themselves on TV. Not being able to get excited about leaving the ball before midnight or picture herself being swept off her feet by a handsome prince. For years black girls were not represented on TV besides the basic stereotypical roles as the loud, ghetto woman or the angry best friend. I mean really, how selfish can you be? Black little girls will finally get to see themselves as the princesses they really are. 

If my feelings on the topic aren’t enough to prove that this whole thing is stupid, then I’ll just use facts. The film, “The Little Mermaid”, tells the story of a mermaid princess named Ariel who dreams of going on land. Ariel lives in an underwater kingdom with her father (King Triton), grandmother, and five older sisters. Determined to live happily with her human prince that she meets when at the surface, Ariel makes a deal with the sea witch, Ursula, to become human for three days. When things get complicated, the king, Ariel’s father, is forced to make a huge sacrifice in order to protect his daughter. Nothing about the summary that I just gave includes race. Ariel’s race is not important or crucial to her storyline. Black, White, Asian, or Hispanic it does not matter. The story is simply about a girl that has fallen in love. Plus, last time I checked a mermaid is a fictional character and does not have a specified race (if you’ve seen one let me know). I would understand if we were talking about the Disney movie Mulan. The film Mulan being set in China during the Han Dynasty is crucial to the storyline. Unlike the case of The Little Mermaid, if Mulan was a different race/ethnicity it would ruin the whole movie. 

There is only one argument that I could possibly understand. Some African Americans felt as though our actors shouldn’t have to take the roles of other races; We should make our own movies and TV shows that represent us. I understand and completely support this idea. But I also know that this will take time in order to develop. Until we get our own movies I feel as though African Americans should support the movie and the black woman that plays the role of Ariel. There is no reason other African Americans should be bashing this news when in the end it will only benefit us as a whole. 

Overall, this argument over whether or not Ariel should be a different race/ethnicity is just pathetic. I think we all know what is really driving these comments and the backlash. Some people just don’t want to accept the idea of diversity. But in this case, they have no choice other than to not watch the movie. Halle Bailey has been happily cast as Ariel and there is no going back. I feel as though even with the big amount of backlash and even the trending hashtag on twitter (#notmyariel), this is a big step forward for the changing of images of African Americans portrayed in movies. If you are open-minded, seeing more diversity, regardless of race, in movies will benefit you. (P.S. for all of the people worried about her having red hair, I’m pretty sure they’ll make it work lol).