We Can Protect Halle Bailey & Criticize Disney’s Lazy ‘Little Mermaid’ Production at the Same Time
During Disney’s D23 Expo event, the company shared a trailer for their live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid (although those present at the event got to see the whole “Part of Your World” scene). We got to see and listen to Halle Bailey (not Halle Berry) as Ariel, one of the most iconic princesses in the Disney franchise. As expected, she sounds amazing, and I do love that they gave Ariel a natural hairstyle to reflect Bailey’s own natural hair.
Since her announcement in the role, there has been a ton of racism that Bailey has had to deal with, from complaints that mermaids can’t have dark skin because they are underwater to excuses about why Bailey’s Blackness should disqualify her from playing the character. Bailey is beautiful, has the face of an ingenue, and can actually sing. She is a perfect actress to bring Ariel to life, and considering that my favorite Disney Princess was Belle, all I can say is that Ariel fans will at least have vocals to enjoy.
That being said, beyond loving Bailey’s voice, the entire look of the film is so dark and boring that it’s frustrating. Disney’s lifeless live-action adaptations of their beloved animated classics have been a money-grabbing disgrace, taking some of the best works of animation and desaturating them until all the magic is gone. Even when it comes to casting, they have managed to be largely unimaginative.
We have Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as Triton, and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric. It is one of the oddest collections of casting choices. Why make Ariel Black if you are going to make her father a white Spaniard? We still have precisely zero Black princes in Disney, and Melissa McCarthy is a brilliant actress, but I can’t for the life of me see what this role offers her.
I celebrate that young Black girls will have a Black Ariel, but beyond that, there is no discernible intent behind the casting here. Diversity, and the praise and vitriol it gathers online, has become a marketing tool for franchises. In a post-Star Wars sequel trilogy era, we have seen companies try to do better about protecting actors of color. Yet, they are still not making the best choices when it comes to their products. We still have until May 26, 2023 to see what comes together, but I look forward to celebrating Halle’s success and talent and voice. But if the color palette isn’t brought up significantly, I’m going to be bummed. I’ve watched David Attenborough specials about the Ocean. Hell, I’ve watched Aquaman. Give me some bioluminescence.
(featured image: Disney)
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