The Little Mermaid (2023) shows race doesn’t matter in movie roles (Opinion)

We shouldn’t care about the skin tone of the Little Mermaid


Actress Halle Bailey is set to play the role of the Little Mermaid, and some fans are not happy.

Within media, casting is very important. You must get the right person to play the role, whether they’d be a great singer, have a peculiar appearance, or portray a specific feeling. This is how studios cast certain people. Yet, within recent years, the stigma behind actors of a certain race portraying a particular role has increased, specifically in voice acting.

Hank Azaria, voice for Apu in The Simpsons, spoke out publicly to express his apologies for voicing an Indian man as a white man, after many people expressed disent with his perpetrating a harmful stereotype. Yet, the entirety of The Simpsons universe is stereotypical; Homer is a fat, white, alcoholic dad; Bart is a rambunctious, mischievous little boy; Ned is an uptight, one-sided Jesus freak; the list goes on and on. Not to mention how Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, almost exclusively voices males characters in the show, and she does a great job, and so does Azaria — because differences between actor and character don’t matter if you can do a great job playing the role.

At the annual Disney convention in 2022, D23, it was announced that a live action adaptation to the disney classic, The Little Mermaid, was going to be hitting screens in May of 2023. Along with the release date, the cast of the movie was announced, which was met with a very 50/50 response. The role for Ariel was to be played by Halle Bailey, a Black actress. Many people are choosing to get upset at this decision, simply because she’s Black, which is ridiculous in every sense. 

Many Disney fans are pretty upset with the fact that she is Black, and are they using “science” to back up their racist beliefs.

I hope they are aware that it’s a story about a half-woman half-fish making a deal with a purple octopus witch-lady to exchange her voice for legs so that the half-fish can be with a man she thought was hot. And throughout the film, there are musical numbers from a singing Jamaican crab, wacky banter from her flounder side kick, and silly advice from a mentally lost seagull. There is zero science within the plot of this story, besides the fact that the talking fish people can’t breathe oxygen.

It’s not like the original movie is going anywhere; the animated version will always be around. Some fans are acting like this casting will alter the “legacy” of the film forever , when in actuality, this will most likely be like every other live action adaptation of a disney movie: mediocre.

I wanted to look specifically at one idea stated by popular right-wing talk show host, Matt Walsh, who strongly believes it’s racist to make her black because if it’s not okay to “white wash” why is it okay to “black wash”?  To start off, if he is so concerned about people getting upset at white actors playing other race roles, he should be all for the little mermaid reboot. With this, it’s showing that anyone can play the role, like he and millions of people feel. But no, it’s not about that, it’s them having to feel that the white race is under attack from “woke liberals” turning everything black.

To add to that, I think context matters a lot. Let’s take the 2007 hit Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog.  This is a Black story — what is happening in this story is pertaining to a black woman in Louisiana. You cannot make this character a different race — a big portion of her character is that she’s the first African American Disney princess. From there, many fans will argue, “Well, Ariel was for redheaded girls!” I hope they know about Merida from Brave, Anna from Frozen, Jessie from Toy Story, and Helen from The Incredibles, and the list goes on.

The reason Disney is able to cast a Black role for Ariel is because her race is not a defining factor of the plot, her defining factor is that she is a mermaid and a redhead; which Halle Bailey is doing for this role.

Overall, I’m somewhat excited for this movie. I’ve never enjoyed myself in my history of watching live action Disney adaptations, however I’m excited to see how this rolls out for Halle Bailey. She is a fantastic singer, and I know her part will be great.

As for the upset fans as well as the racists (or both), learn that double standards don’t get you anywhere, and that you are literally doing nothing by arguing against a fictional mermaid who thinks forks are called “dinglehoppers”.