For the past month, Disney has found itself thrust into the top headlines by every news outlet, and through the white-noise, the maelstrom of chatter between entertainment journalists and movie pundits - their barred teeth ready to clash against one another like drawn swords - has proven far from warm, if not controversial.
With box office and critical performances of its live-action remakes of many of the studio's beloved, timeless cartoons falling short of high expectations, Disney ignited a firestorm when it was announced Halle Bailey would be taking on the role of Ariel for the upcoming adaption of "The Little Mermaid".
Although Bailey's casting has garnered a wide range of support across Hollywood, including Jodi Benson - the voice actress for Ariel in the 1989 animation - with many claiming Disney's decision as a victory for diversity, there has been an equal, if not a greater number of persons who have not hesitated to point out Bailey's lack of acting experience. Now, as a Chinese-Canadian who recently graduated from The School of Theatre, Film, and Television at UCLA in a class where approximately 90% of the student body was caucasian, I am, and remain a firm believer that Hollywood remains underrepresented, and that greater efforts are still needed to see visible minorities are appropriately, and fairly, represented in spite of the progress that has been made. That said, even without the suspicion of racial underpinnings disguised beneath the formality of criticizing Bailey's resume, or lack of one, objectively speaking, there is a strong case to be made against the R & B artist portraying one of Disney's most iconic characters.
Due to the cultural impact of Disney's animated movies trademarked by musicals as entrancing as their hypnotic visuals, live-action re-adaptions of works that include "The Jungle Book", "Aladdin", and "Beauty and the Beast" have translated in droves of actors and actresses contacting their agents, before rushing to the studio with the hopes of landing an audition, if not a part. From Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Will Smith, and Luke Evans, the conception of these projects from script to screen has seen actors cast stemming from a diverse array of experience, ethnicities, gender, and sexuality. Many of which possess a list of accolades as long as any red carpet. While it would be egregiously unfair to point to shelves packed with Golden Globes, Oscars, and nominations to receive them, and utilize them as a standard of disqualification against Halle Bailey, even when one peers behind the trophy cabinet, there is little to delegate a trophy for. And even less for a camera and the light behind it to shine upon.
Appearing in minor roles for shows such as "House of Payne", "Austin & Ally", and in an entire season of ABC's "Black-ish" spinoff, "Grown-ish", what little that exists of the Atlanta natives tangible credentials pales when pitted against her fellow leads from previous Disney films such as Emma Watson ("The Beauty & the Beast"), Lily James ("Cinderella"), Donald Glover ("The Lion King"), Mia Wasikowska ("Alice In The Wonderland"), Colin Farrell ("Dumbo"), and Many Massoud ("Aladdion"). A diverse group in possession of a convincing degree of success acting in feature film. And even if one were to dare to confine casting on the basis of African-American Ethnicity, viable options exist in the form of Letitia Wright, Janell Monae, Anna Diop, Zoe Zaldanna, and Kerry Washington to name just a few young enough, and of the calibre Disney traditionally casts for such as the role which was tended to Bailey.
Nevertheless, as it concerns filmmaking - the making of art - it is always best to consider whether the artist can make that art as opposed to the colours she plans to bring, and use. But in Bailey's case, its not a matter of colour, but whether she can wield the brush. Unfortunately, she just doesn't have enough samples to show she can.