Social media has been blowing up with Halle Bailey's controversial star role in the newest Little Mermaid movie. Bailey is a 19 year old African American actress who has sparked conversation regarding race. Some say she shouldn't play Ariel because the original character was white. Why do closed-minded philosophies always find their way into the picture?
The original story was written by the Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen. I'm pretty sure the premise of the story is well-known to all: a mermaid sacrifices her identity (and voice) to become human. The Ariel we remember from the animation has firetruck red hair, pale white skin, and a fascination for the unknown.
I understand the flowing red hair is a trademark of the Little Mermaid, but think about the implications of NOT casting a qualified actress specifically on the grounds of her skin tone. I'm not suggesting the entertainment industry and its avid followers are attempting to be outright racist (it'd be a damn shame if they were), but the idea that a talented young woman can't so much as make a foothold for herself in the acting world due to her race is preposterous.
Some tweeters are worried that their childhood (including that of their own children) might be compromised. I think this is garbage. In my opinion, the entertainment industry is supposed to be a creative outlet: media should be taken with a grain of salt despite the deeper lessons they might teach. I know the industry is probably drowning in corruption, money, and head-rushing fame, but let's take a step back for a second and think about what we're saying.
The Little Mermaid's story won't change unless we let it. It is quite literally a fairy tale following the journey of a curious mermaid to land. She loses her voice in the process because of an evil sea witch. If this is anything short of inhuman, then someone slap me. Why aren't we just as bothered by other interpretations of fairy tales? Didn't someone make Alice in Wonderland look like a murderer? What about the fan fics? Why are we making this issue deeper than what it is? Are we really that bothered over a red head of hair?
In my experience, I've seen many African American girls get bullied because their hair is different. Jeez, aren't the Civil Rights Movement and prior atrocities proof enough? If we attack this girl simply because we can't accept in our tiny brains that maybe, just maybe, our fairy tales can evolve as humanity does, then something is seriously wrong with the United States. I'm not going to sit here and boycott The Little Mermaid because my children might grow up with a black Ariel. It's BS. I embrace this new interpretation of the movie; I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that they keep the same lovable fish friends.
Some say casting Bailey as Ariel is the equivalent of casting a white woman as Mulan. I disagree. Mulan is based on a specific culture, whereas The Little Mermaid is not. Some whine that we should just make a new African American princess and cast a redhead as Ariel instead. BUT WHY? Making a NEW princess just to fit the ingrained expectation that she won't change race over time is just as racist as saying Bailey shouldn't be cast at all! It's making the race embody the character rather than the character just living their story.
At the end of it all, I'm excited for this new movie. I want them to keep the same plot and characters, but I can only hope that Halle Bailey doesn't become the face of Disney's forced inclusiveness.