It was recently revealed Halle Bailey had been cast to play Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, prompting global conversation on whether a black actor should play a character originally depicted as a white cartoon.
The incredibly talented 19-year-old has already made a name for herself in the acting world and within the music industry, with director Rob Marshall insisting she was the ‘clear front runner’ for the role.
People all over the world have applauded the franchise diversifying the film, including a few famous faces, from Halle Berry (because Halles always stick together, right?) to Nicki Minaj and Chrissy Teigen.
In case you needed a reminder… Halles get it DONE. Congratulations @chloexhalle on this amazing opportunity, we can’t wait to see what you do! #TheLittleMermaid #HalleBailey pic.twitter.com/z0Rik2nxRe
— Halle Berry (@halleberry) July 3, 2019
One person concisely summed up why it’s so important to see black actors cast in these kinds of roles, writing:
White people complaining they cast a black girl as Ariel: Disney created 49 films from 1937 – 2009 before delivering their first black princess with Tiana.
Black girls watched an entire catalog NEVER seeing themselves, for 70 years. You spoiled, racist brats.
After the casting was revealed, #notmyariel began trending on Twitter with ‘people’ criticising Disney for exactly that.
However, if you actually search for #notmyariel tweets, you’ll find many of the critical posts come from newly created bot accounts with long numbers in their handles – a sure-fire way of knowing they’re not real.
One #notmyariel tweet that gained a lot of traction comes from an account with six tweets, eight followers and three likes which was created, shockingly, in July 2019 – just in time for some controversy around a major movie.
These accounts have clearly been created to stoke up some kind of divisive debate, hatred and anger and have worked to some degree. Petitions have been signed by real people and there are some actual accounts on Twitter who agree with that viewpoint.
Some of these people flocked to social media to insist they’re ‘not racist’, with one writing:
I mean honestly I’m not racist I want damn accurate actors that look like her. It’s a live action version, meaning it should look like the film and she doesn’t. I honestly think this is hilarious that y’all can’t handle opinions. Pathetic tbh, like grow up.
No, wanting an accurate representation of Ariel's character in the big screen doesn't make anyone Racist or less accessible to those changes, leave the classics ALONE, if everyone wants princesses from different ethnicities and colors etc, make new tales. #NotMyAriel
— the dude everyone hates (@OxmarvisMendoza) July 5, 2019
While neither Disney or Halle have commented on the backlash, because let’s face it, they’ve probably got better things to do, Freeform – a Disney network – wrote a bad ass open letter to the ‘poor unfortunate souls’ who are upset with the casting.
The letter said:
Yes. The original author of The Little Mermaid was Danish. Ariel…is a mermaid. She lives in an underwater kingdom in international waters and can legit swim wherever she wants (even though that often upsets King Triton, absolute zaddy).
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black.
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.
But spoiler alert — bring it back to the top — the character of Ariel is a work of fiction. So after all this is said and done, and you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey 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 Disney network has got absolutely no time for not supporting diversity and neither does actor Jodie Benson, who voiced Ariel in the original movie.
As reported by ComicBook, the actor said at the Florida Supercon convention:
The most important thing is to tell the story. And we have, as a family, we have raised our children, and for ourselves, that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside.
I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts. And the outside package, cause let’s face it, I’m really, really old, and so when I’m singing ‘Part of Your World,’ if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.