The backlash on Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid’

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By Alyssa Velasquez 

It’s every child’s dream to see a Disney character representing the same physical and cultural resemblance as on the TV screen, but unfortunately, many young minorities don’t have that luxury. It is also unfortunate that these occurrences don’t happen often due to the “inaccurate origins” behind the fictional stories.

Disney 23 Expo (D23 Expo) announced upcoming films and park innovations Sept. 9 in Anaheim, Calif. From one of the movie trailers, the long awaited live-action film “The Little Mermaid” was announced to be released on May 26, 2023. While Disney has done a handful of live-action adaptations of their original cartoons, this one in particular rounds up a lot of controversy. In the original film, princess Ariel is a pale-skinned, red-head who wants to be a part of the human world. 

The same concept is applied to the live-action version, but Ariel will be played by Halle Bailey, a black actress and musician. Many Disney fans were ecstatic about this version of Ariel, finally having more black representation in this realm of Disney. Some parents even took to TikTok and posted their children’s excited reactions, which warmed many hearts.

On the flip side, the trailer got major backlash for going against the “original story” of the film. According to a Rolling Stone article, adults started using the hashtags “#notmyariel” and “#gowokegobroke” while tagging Disney Studios to show their disapproval on Twitter.

These protesters believe casting Bailey goes against staying true to the original narrative. Before Disney’s version of “The Little Mermaid,” the old Danish fairy tale dates back more than 100 years ago from Hanns Christians Anderson. Anderson’s version of the tale is grimmer and Ariel’s physical characteristics relate to more of a fish than a human-like form. Therefore, casting Bailey wouldn’t exactly be going against anything due to the fact that Ariel is a mermaid, not a human.

Though this argument has been floating around the internet for a couple of weeks, Actress Bailey is set in stone with her positivity and gratefulness for this new version of Ariel. While speaking to Entertainment Weekly at the premiere of D23 Expo, she talks about Director Rob Marshall wanting to incorporate her locs of hair into Ariel’s character.“It’s just amazing. I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to take the essence of me and mix the two.” Bailey said.

She also deprives herself of the backlash by not commenting on the negativity and instead, talks about this version of Ariel seeking passion and her future throughout the film. She also inferred that playing this major role encouraged her personally to grow as a woman and is more confident within herself and hopes this movie can do the same with others.

D23 Expo had numerous trailers of films that premiered weeks ago and none of them surfaced in the media the way “The Little Mermaid” did all because of the difference in ethnicity between the original and live-action film. Though the negative outcome has overshadowed the criticism of the trailer, there are many Disney fans who can’t wait to see this movie come to life.

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