Disney Should Go With a Less “Safe” Choice Than Harry Styles for Prince Eric in Live-Action The Little Mermaid
Yesterday, it was announced that One Direction singer Harry Styles is currently in talks to play Prince Eric, opposite Hallie Bailey’s Ariel, in the Disney live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. The Hollywood Reporter says the casting is still “in early negotiations,” but if it goes through, he will join Melissa McCarthy (Ursula the sea witch), Awkwafina (Skuttle), and Jacob Tremblay (Flounder).
Now, I can understand wanting to cast someone as popular as Harry Styles in this role because he’s a relatively “safe” pick. Traditionally attractive, he was previously in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which means this won’t be his first major acting rodeo, and he won’t further irritate those racists who might have been turned off by Hallie Bailey’s casting. However, I’m going to say that I think Disney should cast a Black man in the role of Prince Eric.
As of right now, Disney has never had a Black Disney Prince. Even in The Princess and the Frog, Naveen was a fictional ethnicity that was a combination of Brazilian, Mediterranean, and “ethnically ambiguous” brownness.
The Little Mermaid doesn’t need big names to sell this movie, and no shade, but Prince Eric is only “iconic” because he’s in the top tier of handsomeness and usefulness among the Disney Princes. I think it would be great to bring in some young Black male talent like Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk) or John Boyega. Boyega is a Disney Prince, y’all. We know he could work that white shirt and pants combo. But if he’s too busy with Star Wars, there’s Franz Drameh (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash), Jharrel Jerome (When They See Us), and many others.
I’m not opposed to seeing an interracial couple onscreen with The Little Mermaid, but Disney has very rarely given us quality Black representation in their films, and with the exception of Black Panther, absolutely no real depictions of Black love. Disney’s casting choice in Hallie Bailey gave the movie a lot of early controversy and support from certain communities. Save for casting a Drag Queen for Ursula, it was probably the best thing they could have done to promote the film.
However, that also means holding Disney to a standard of giving us quality representation beyond Ariel. It means casting her sisters right, getting the right actor for King Triton, and really showing us that they think Black actors can embody this world.
If Harry Styles gets cast as Prince Eric, it won’t be a “bad” choice, but I don’t think it would be the right one. That has nothing to do with Styles himself, but the fact that Disney had an opportunity to do something they’ve hardly ever done before, and they’re reportedly picking the “safer” choice.
Who would you cast as Prince Eric?
(via The Hollywood Reporter, image: Disney)
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