The casting of American black singer Halle Bailey by director Rob Marshall in the role of Ariel in Disney’s forthcoming live-action version of ‘The Little Mermaid’ has been ruffling feathers.
Critics of the casting contend that mermaids may be mythical creatures but they’re white, innit. And besides, the author of the original tale was a white Danish man, they add.
To be fair, not that many raised the HC Andersen card. Instead, they pointed out, quite correctly of course, that in the 1989 Disney animated film the character is white-skinned and red-headed.
Danish people can be black
“I’m not being racist but,” was a common opening line on many online forums, so imagine their horror when the Instagram account of Disney’s cable network Freeform called them out for being exactly that, posting an open letter to “poor, unfortunate souls”.
“Yes. The original author of ‘The Little Mermaid’ was Danish. And for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black,” the post reasoned.
“Ariel can sneak up to the surface at any time with her pals Scuttle and the *ahem* Jamaican crab Sebastian (sorry, Flounder!) and keep that bronze base tight. Black Danish people, and this mer-folk, can also *genetically* (!!!) have red hair.”
An inspired choice
As one half of the Grammy-nominated duo Chloe X Halle, Freeform is in no doubt that the casting of “the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey” is an inspired choice.
“But spoiler alert – bring it back to the top – the character of Ariel is a work of fiction,” the post continued.
“So after all this is said and done, and you still cannot get past the idea that this … is anything other than the INSPIRED casting that it is because she ‘doesn’t look like the cartoon one’, oh boy, do I have some news for you … about you.”
The kids know best
One actress slightly perturbed by the reaction is Diana Huey, a Japanese-American performer who has been playing Ariel on a US tour of ‘The Little Mermaid’.
“I never had one kid in 300-something shows over the course of a year say: ‘Oh, you don’t look like Ariel.’ They would see me come out of the stage door with my hair and street clothes and throw themselves at me screaming ‘Ariel!’,” she told The Wrap.
“The kids were totally on board. So if we just keep doing this, that’s the good work we need to do to make the world just a more opened-minded place.”