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The Ridiculous Controversy Surrounding The New “The Little Mermaid” Movie

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hampton U chapter.

Apparently, grown adults cannot handle a kid’s movie

Since the release of the trailer for “The Little Mermaid” on September 9th starring singer Halle Bailey as Ariel, it has taken the Internet by storm. In the first few days following the release of the trailer, heartwarming videos of Black girls reacting to seeing themselves being represented by Disney have garnered millions of views across social media. As some families gazed at their screens in starstruck awe, others were repulsed by the adaptation of their beloved Disney princess as a Black woman and took to the Internet to share their displeasure. Let’s delve into how critics have been responding and how proponents of the film have been clapping back.

Many critics of the film have argued that the true meaning of the film has nothing to do with representation, but rather cultural and racial appropriation, claiming that it is nothing but left-wing figures trying to push their “wokeism” agenda. Many have used the rationale that mermaids are based on traditional European folklore, therefore Ariel should be white. The original “The Little Mermaid” story was published in 1837 by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Despite being written by a Danish author, the story has no mention of Denmark, simply stating that the little mermaid and her kind reside “far out in the ocean” in the opening lines of the story. Similarly, in the 1989 adaptation, Ariel hails from the fictional kingdom of Atlantica and no race of mermaid has a monopoly on this fictional kingdom, making this argument invalid.

From here on out, the reactions only get more irrational and fueled by pure bigotry. From Twitter to Facebook to Tiktok, there is no shortage of racist caricatures, vulgar expressions of white supremacy, and imitations of the Black families who resonated with the trailer. One example of this can be found on Facebook in the form of a group called “Make Ariel White Again”. The group sporting 226 members made headlines in 2019 on “The Shade Room” when they plastered a cartoon of Black Ariel with an enlarged nose and lips, resting on a slice of watermelon, with a fried chicken necklace. Despite their despicable displays of racism polluting Facebook for over 3 years and countless reports, the app has yet to reprimand them, consequently enabling the spewing of racism on the platform. Other apps fare no better; Twitter has become ground zero for racists to show their true colors. Hashtags such as #notmyariel and #BoycottDisney have thousands of tweets claiming that filmmakers have “blackwashed” Ariel and ruined their childhoods. Thus far, the most viral display of racism has been that of Indonesian Tiktoker Jossi Marchelli with 3.5 million followers. Marchelli imitated the Black girls who watched the trailer by performing Blackface and saying “mommy, she looks like me!”. He was subsequently banned from Tiktok and kicked out of law school.

Despite the outrageous displays of hatred, there has been an outpouring of support for the film and people clapping back against the critics. All in all, the overall reception to the live-action remake has been incredibly optimistic, as more and more people worldwide are realizing the significance of representation to Black youth and that fictional characters are, undeniably, a cornerstone to a young child’s development. By introducing more diverse characters with the same strong morals, we are paving the way for future generations to a society that does not discriminate based on skin color and recognizes the importance of film and literature in achieving this.

Zoë Westlund

Hampton U '25

Zoë Westlund (she/her) is a third-year education major at Hampton U from Manhattan, New York. When she's not writing or studying, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and going to the beach.