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Halle Bailey Makes a Splash in New Teaser Trailer

Recently, Disney released the first teaser trailer for the live action remake of The Little Mermaid. To set the scene, the trailer immediately takes viewers into the depths of the ocean. From there, we are able to see glimpses of beautiful ocean waves, coral, and sea creatures. The suspense is doubled by brief images of a mermaid’s tail flickering in the water. My anticipation was through the roof as I waited to see Halle Bailey’s face swim into frame. Finally, at the one-minute mark, viewers are shown a clear shot of Halle while she sits in her treasure trove and sings “Part Of Your World.” 

At just under 1 minute and 30 seconds, the trailer does an excellent job of piquing the viewer’s interest without giving too much away. Personally, I really enjoyed it. The camera angles were well chosen. The flora and fauna looked realistic (shout out to Flounder’s two seconds of fame). And Halle Bailey’s voice sounded incredible! So why does the video have over 1 million dislikes on Youtube? Let’s talk about it.

The original animation was beloved by viewers around the world; however, the remake has been a point of controversy for the past two years. Many Disney fans are mad that a black actress was chosen for Ariel’s role. The most common argument is that a white actress should play Ariel because the character was fair skinned in the animation. Other critics claim that the actress should be white because the fairy tale was written by a Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen. I’ve also heard people argue that it’s scientifically impossible for a mermaid to have dark skin because sunlight doesn’t reach the bottom of the ocean. I’ll address each argument in order.

Since mermaids are fictional creatures, they could honestly be any color of the rainbow. So, why does it matter that the animated character was fair skinned? Halle Bailey’s audition knocked director Rob Marshall off his feet! Back in 2019, he stated, “after an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance–plus a glorious singing voice–all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.” Clearly, Marshall put a lot of thought into the character choice. He committed himself to finding a talented, kind-hearted actress who embodied the role. Based on that criteria, Halle Bailey is a wonderful fit. 

Some fans believe that ignoring The Little Mermaid’s Danish origins is comparable to casting a white actor for Black Panther. But Ariel herself is not Danish. Nothing in the film references Danish culture. The movie doesn’t even specify which sea Ariel swims in. Ariel’s ethnicity and race have no impact on the plot whatsoever. In contrast, Britannica explains that Black Panther was created amid the Civil Rights Movement to “address a serious lack of major Black American comic book superheroes.” Moreover, the plot addresses the disconnect within the African diaspora. Of course, T’Challa’s actor had to be a black man. His race is significant in the story.

The “scientific” argument just makes me laugh. Most deep-sea creatures are dark red or black. Since there is little to no red light in deep waters, red pigmentation helps deep-sea creatures hide from predators. Similarly, black fish camouflage well in the deep sea because the water is very dark. So, scientifically, it would make more sense for Ariel to have dark skin than light skin.

You’re probably familiar with most of the controversies already. Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok have been flooded with The Little Mermaid debates. But have you guys seen the videos of little black girls reacting to the first black mermaid? Each one I saw warmed my heart. Representation matters, especially for children. I remember my excitement when The Princess and the Frog came out in 2009. I was only eight years old, but I knew that movie would make history. My mom, sister, and I all raced to the theaters to see Disney’s first black princess. She was strong, brave, and hard-working. Better yet, she looked just like me! 

But she also looked like a frog for half of the movie.

Let’s face it. Disney’s representation of people of color (POC) hasn’t been the greatest. For years, their animation primarily focused on white women and animals. In 2000, The Emperor’s New Groove broke those boundaries by starring Kuzco, an Incan emperor who turned into a llama. A few years later, Brother Bear (2003) hit the screens and depicted an Inuit hunter who was turned into a bear after killing one. The Princess and the Frog marked the third time Disney transformed a POC lead into an animal. Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a pattern. Thankfully, Disney’s recent projects feature racial diversity without any transformations (Coco, Encanto, and Turning Red are just a few examples).

The Little Mermaid remake will premiere in theaters in May 2023! I know that Halle Bailey will knock it out of the park. And I know that black girls all over the world will be thrilled to get some proper representation (myself included).

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References

Estevez, M. (2018, Feb. 20). ‘Black Panther,’ Erik Killmonger And The Disconnect Within The African Diaspora. Vibe. https://www.vibe.com/features/editorial/black-panther-review-erik-killmonger-african-diaspora-disconnect-567218/

Everything We Know About the New Little Mermaid Starring Halle Bailey. (2022, Sept. 10). Harper Bazaar. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a28326315/little-mermaid-remake-halle-bailey-news-date-cast-spoilers/

Sanderson, P. and Roach, D. (2022, July 24). Black Panther. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Black-Panther-comic-book-character

The Roots of…The Little Mermaid. (2019, Nov. 12). The Old Market. https://www.theoldmarket.com/news/roots-of-little-mermaid

WPUNJ Class of 2023. Interests in digital marketing, social media, and content creation.
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