In Europe, people are wondering how they’re going to stay warm this winter. In America, women have lost the right to decide what they can do with their uterus in many states. In the Ukraine, there are families torn apart by war. However, lets get outraged about Disney casting Halle Bailey as a fantasy race in the live action version of The Little Mermaid.
Merfolk in Fantasy and Lore
Don’t think that Disney created the mermaid. Merfolk or merpeople have been part of folklore across the world. In Babylon, they worshiped the god Ea who was depicted as a combination of man and fish. There was Assyrian goddess Astargatis that resembled a modern day mermaid. There’s Poseidon (Neptune) who has been shown as a merman. The Sirens had a huge place in Greek mythology.
The Chinese had plenty of legends of merfolk in the seas. Even the Persians had references to merfolk in the One Thousand and One Nights!
Brief History of The Little Mermaid
If you’re into gaming, fantasy stories, or role playing you probably already know the history of The Little Mermaid. So I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. However, for those of you who don’t know it was a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1837.
The story is about a mermaid princess who saved a sailor from drowning. She falls in love with the sailor and wants to be part of his world. In order to live on land, she makes a deal with a sea witch and trades her voice for her legs. Unfortunately the prince ended marrying someone else. The sea witch traded a knife to the mermaid’s sisters and if she’d kill the prince, she could return to the sea. If you don’t know the rest, go read the story.
Now here’s the thing, our beloved Hans Christian Andersen loved men. So it’s been theorized that The Little Mermaid was written for Edvard Collin. Collin rejected Andersen’s advances, so writing a story about a mermaid who falls in love with someone from a different world and is rejected, is quite fitting. Especially with the HCA version of the ending. The Little Mermaid was left alone, unloved, and dissolved into sea foam.
The Disney Version of The Little Mermaid
Now we’ll fast forward to 1989 when Disney put out the animated version of the story. I personally can remember going to go see it at an afternoon matinee. It was at a cinema the next city over which I remember being run down and dingy, but cheap. My parents didn’t have a lot of money for things like movies in 1989 so this was a real treat.
I can remember the bright vibrant colors of Ariel’s hair and Sebastian the crab. I also remember hearing Under the Sea and Part of Your World for the very first time. I can also remember going and playing “The Little Mermaid” on the playground after going and seeing it.
In a nutshell, Disney named their mermaid Ariel. She was still a princess and she still fell in love with a human prince. However, unlike Andersen’s version, she did end up winning Prince Eric’s heart and everyone lived happily ever after.
So What’s Up with the Live Action Version?
I haven’t been following the controversy too closely but my personal take is a bunch of white people are mad that Disney chose to cast an African American woman as Ariel.
They’re mad that Disney chose to cast an African American woman in the role of a mythical fish woman. A mermaid which is a fantasy race that doesn’t actually exist in the real world. And yes, in the original version it does talk about the mermaid’s “white” legs but hey! Disney gave the mermaid a name, flaming red hair and gave the story a happily ever after. So why can’t they decide Ariel’s skin color is that of an African American woman?
And honestly, this is a fight that there’s no winning.
You’re racist if you have a problem with it and “woke” while supporting some evil liberal agenda if you support it.
It’s OK When It’s Reversed!
Here’s the totally ironic thing. NOBODY (well, white people) have an issue when characters that should be ethnic are white washed. This means taking a black character, indian, chinese and letting a white actor play them.
In 2010 we had Jake Gyllehaal, a white man, play the lead character in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Or how about Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily in the 2015 Pan? Or my favorite, Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in the 2017 Ghost in the Shell.
I can’t remember any memes or outrage from the people who are mad about Halle playing Ariel when we had a very white Persian prince, a very white Native American princess and a very white Japanese woman.
It’s OK When It’s a Completely Fictional Race
All across mythology and folk lore merfolk were described with different skin color. White, green blue, etc and so on. So to me, it’s not out of place that we would have a brown or black mermaid as well. IT’S FANTASY FOR FUCKS SAKE!
There are people who are claiming this isn’t OK because the little mermaid was Danish and Danish people are white. This is the best come back I’ve seen so far, “Danish people don’t have fins nor do we live under water. We can, and do, however have different ethnicities.”
So at the end of the day, in my opinion that really doesn’t matter, I think it’s completely OK to change the color of a fictional race’s skin.
In the cartoon adaptation, we had a white Ariel. Now, we’re getting a black Ariel and that’s OK. It would be ok to decide the Beast from Beauty and the Beast is pink, Donald Duck is yellow or Tinker Bell is brown. That’s a beast, duck and fairy all fictional races. It’s OK.
At the end of the day, I personally think it’s really sad that adults in 2022 are mad that the live action little mermaid is black. Honestly, I think it just shows that racism is alive and well and it’s sad. Our world isn’t only white, nor is it only black, brown or yellow. There are a lot of skin colors out there and we all live in this world together. If you’re THIS mad, just move on and don’t watch the movie. Maybe volunteer the 2 hours doing something useful.
Honestly, from what I’ve seen from the trailer, I’m looking forward to the movie and Halle Bailey can SING.