Opinion: Why the Anger Over the Little Mermaid Remake was Unfair


The Twitter controversy that sprung up after Disney announced that Halle Bailey would play Ariel in The Little Mermaid remake was unnecessary and fueled by ignorance.

In the wake of Disney’s wave of “live-action remakes”, a controversy has erupted over Halle Bailey, the African-American actress selected to portray Ariel in the upcoming Little Mermaid remake. People using hashtags such as #NotMyMermaid and #NotMyAriel have risen up to protest vehemently against the casting, all of them furious and unwilling to back down.

My first reaction when hearing about this controversy was an involuntary eye-roll. It just seemed so unimportant – why do so many grown adults feel the need to be angry over a movie directed at children? People have been sounding off on Twitter, claiming that casting an African-American actress to play Ariel is an insult to the movie that had affected so many of their childhoods, but most of them neglect to take into account the way Disney’s mostly-white repertoire of princesses has affected children of color.

Research shows that influential role models are extremely important when it comes to how young children see themselves and the world. Role models can show children what they can achieve in life, and prove to them that people who look like them can grow up to become movie stars, singers, pro athletes, scientists, and much more. 

Many children grew up being exposed to Disney movies, and with its wide range of messages and morals, began seeing Disney characters as role models in their own lives. As a white person, I have never had to experience under representation within Disney movies, as the majority of the characters that Disney portrays in their older animated films look a lot like me.

However, in the case of a non-white child, the lack of representation can lead them to believe that, in order to be a princess, you must look a certain way. Disney has begun to see that flaw in their character design, and I personally applaud them for casting Bailey to play Ariel in The Little Mermaid. 

To the people claiming that casting Bailey as Ariel is an insult to the redheaded community, I can do little more than shake my head in disbelief. As a redhead myself, I can assure anyone who is worried that we are under no immediate threat. We all should instead be happy for the children who can now see themselves represented onscreen by a smiling, beautiful, actress portraying a character who will shape their childhoods as much as the animated Ariel shaped others’. 

As it was put by Freeform on Twitter, “Ariel… is a mermaid.” And as such, there is no way she has to look.