Critics Mad About Disney Casting a Black Little Mermaid Need to Take a Seat

A lot happened during the long holiday weekend

Photo: Unsplash/@nseylubangi

Photo: Unsplash/@nseylubangi

A lot happened during the long holiday weekend. While most of us were at family cookouts or away for the weekend, all while feeling conflicted about Fourth of July because — hello — America has migrants being abused in concentration camps at the border, some interesting stuff also went down on the internet. Many of us were thrilled when we learned that Halle Baily will star as Ariel in the live-action remake of the iconic, animated film, The Little Mermaid. For brown and black girls especially, this is beyond significant. But some bitter haters seemed to have an issue with the idea of The Little Mermaid being played by a Black actress. 

Ignorant folks went in. Some going as far as claiming that because the original Little Mermaid was White, they refuse to accept a Black mermaid, leading to the hashtag #notmyariel. What was even more upsetting was the Brown and Black folks who also took issue with the fact that the new Ariel is going to be Black.

Fortunately, Black Twitter went in. Halley Berry even tweeted out the news, since apparently, folks were confusing her with Halle Baily.

Even Freeform addressed the racist backlash over Halle Baily’s casting. They wrote an open letter to Little Mermaid haters while breaking down why the Grown-ish actress is actually the best person for the role.

Honestly, they couldn’t have written up a better response if they tried to. That tweet shut it all the way down, pretty much saying everything that needed to be said. The fact that folks have their panties in a bunch just because Ariel is being played by a Black actress speaks volumes. And whether they want to admit it or not, it’s not because Ariel was Danish — come on now — it’s because they are clearly uncomfortable with the idea of a star Disney princess being Black, which is not only racist but very obviously speaks to their privilege, right? When you grow up seeing your image EVERYWHERE — on television shows, cartoons, storybooks, films, magazine covers, billboards, ads, commercials, and pretty much everything else — it’s easy to take that for granted. It’s easy to grow comfortable with that privilege. After all that privilege grants you power in a lot — if not all spaces. But when you’re a person of color who grew up hardly ever seeing your image anywhere, where you had to work to unlearn the lies that were told to you about being a brown or black person growing up, and you had to do the work to love and embrace yourself despite what the world wanted you to believe, it’s a MAJOR deal when you finally do start to see yourself in films, TV shows, magazine covers, storybooks, and as the lead princess in the Disney movies you grew up watching, that you could never fully relate to before.

For most of us WOC, we had to find a way to relate to all the white Disney princesses we grew up seeing — we didn’t have another choice. Some of us were fortunate, where we had mothers — like my own, that constantly reminded me that the only reason why most Disney princesses were White was because we live in a racist world as a result of colonization, not because White beauty was more beautiful than my own. But even then it was hard to truly believe it when all the representations of beauty that were being thrown at me only looked one way — white. So if we were able for centuries to deal with that, why is it so offensive or uncomfortable for certain white folks (I’m specifically referring to the ones upset about this new remake) to watch a Disney film with a Black princess and still find a way to relate and dig it? Am I right or am I right?

While the haters continue to hate I’ll be here celebrating the new Little Mermaid and drowning myself in this powerful Black Girl Magic moment!

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