When it was announced last week that Chloe x Halle singer Halle Bailey, a black woman, will play Ariel in Disney’s upcoming The Little Mermaid live-action reboot, debates were sparked and many people went full angry Ursula.
Others defended the casting, noting that the character is fictional and mythological, and does not necessarily need to resemble the white-skinned, red-headed character depicted in the 1989 animated film on which the new movie is based. Many also accused critics of the casting of racism. On Saturday, an “open letter to the Poor, Unfortunate Souls” was posted on the Instagram account of Disney’s cable network Freeform, formerly known as ABC Family.
“Yes. The original author of The Little Mermaid was Danish. Ariel…is a mermaid. She lives in an underwater kingdom in international waters and can legit swim wherever she wants (even though that often upsets King Triton, absolute zaddy),” the post read. “But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black. Ariel can sneak up to the surface at any time with her pals Scuttle and the *ahem* Jamaican crab Sebastian (sorry, Flounder!) and keep that bronze base tight. Black Danish people, and this mer-folk, can also *genetically* (!!!) have red hair.”
“But spoiler alert – bring it back to the top – the character of Ariel is a work of fiction,” the post continued. “So after all this is said and done, and you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than the INSPIRED casting that it is because she ‘doesn’t look like the cartoon one,’ oh boy, do I have some news for you…about you.”
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Parent company Disney has not responded to the casting, announced by both Bailey and director Rob Marshall, or the backlash over it.