'Halle Bailey cast as Ariel in 'Little Mermaid' remake"
In early July, news began to circulate that Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and actress Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel in the upcoming live action remake of the 1989 classic The Little Mermaid.
One it broke that the 19-year-old Grown-ish star and one-half of the music duo ‘Chloe x Halle’ was going to take on this role, controversy arose pertaining whether a Black woman should play the character.
Social activity has ranged from the infamous #MakeArielWhiteAgain facebook page
that has since been deleted to countless memes being produced in response. This is deeper than just a remake and a Black woman as the lead. The issue is an age-old issue.
Colorism in Disney films is not an unfamiliar topic. Most, if not, all the Disney films consist of white princesses and white princes. In recent decades, as Hollywood becomes more diverse as new directors, writers, animators, and producers of color begin to pour into the studios, the focus has begun to shift away toward something different.
Anthony Laurence writes in ZODCulture that “there’s a problem with representation in our cinemas. Audiences around the globe are being shown a disproportionate world of fiction, a world where variations in ethnicity are inordinately rare.” The reason why many filmmakers stay true to the “white-wash” of classic films is because they were imagined by writers who were white and male.
Bailey’s casting is the antithesis to this tradition rhetoric. Classic films earn the title “classic” because they hold true to the traditions that ushered it. But what is failed to be seen in this phenomenon is as good traditions are reimagined, the bad traditions accompany them. Traditions such as the limited to zero representation of minorities as a means of retaining power in the favor of the majority.
In recent pasts, Disney has made some efforts in diversifying their films. The one remake that has been resurfacing is the 1997 television remake of the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s reimagination of Cinderella starring Grammy-award winning singer/actress Brandy and the late Grammy-award winning singer/actress Whitney Houston. The musical film had an ensemble cast featuring Tony award winning actress Bernadette Peters, Oscar winning actress Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber, and more. The film premiered in November 1997 and, with 16 million viewers, was the highest rated program the night of its premiere.
Numbers like that prove there is no issue of race when it comes to valuable television and film programming. This begs the question of why is it so significant in 2019?
Why is Bailey’s casting as Ariel garnered such negative reaction?