The Little Mermaid's Racist Outrage

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

I find it increasingly easy to get spun up about different news topics or the outrage of the day. If you only spent your time on specific Twitter feeds, you'd think that Disney is frantically trying to destroy the fabric of America. In other feeds you'd think they are the arbiters of truth, justice, and representation. We see a couple posts or a quick twitter thread about someone getting hot and bothered by a decision, and we immediately attribute sentiment to the "other side". Its right vs left yet again.

Spoiler alert, both sides are out of touch.


In reality, no one with half a brain really cares. Everyone goes about their day and only really forms an opinion online for the sake of virtue signaling or clout. I know, I've done it.


If you routinely log into social media and find yourself getting furious over an idea or comment made by another person on the internet? Take a step back and realize that those ideas and comments are outliers and/or trolling to garner a reaction. Social media also routinely lacks nuance, and we often read further into a 240 character post than we should.


Yes, sometimes a spade is a spade. But sometimes we overreact based on our preconceived notions about certain groups. The ability to discern between the two is a lost art.


DISNEY DOLLARS

Much to our dismay, Disney is yet again digging up the bones of its former successful animations. While most of them have been CGI technical achievements, they lack the magic and captivation of the original. Pinocchio starring Tom Hanks, released earlier this year, sits at a low 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and streamed exclusively on Disney+. Disney's business model is clearly focused on 3 things: Making money, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars.


The MCU and Star Wars, for better or worse, are the only properties where new and original content is being pumped up. Creatives are given more freedom and whiteboarding abilities here and their curation is geared up to help the fans.


But Disney's #1 goal is to make money, and they seem to think that re-hashing their beloved animated movies with live-action makeovers is a cash cow - and maybe it is. Doesn't change the fact that it's creatively bankrupt.

THE SAGA OF THE RACIST MERMAIDS

Among the live action outputs from Disney have come disgustingly racist responses to Halle Baily being cast as live action Ariel for The Little Mermaid. In the animated film, Ariel is white with red hair. Halle Baily is black, with what appears to be somewhat red or auburn hair in the trailer.


My gut reaction is "who cares". If you have such a visceral anger with this casting choice, you have more time on your hands than you need. I find it hilarious that this is making as much news as it has. I guess it plays into a good marketing play by Disney. No press is bad press.


I have already laid out my disdain for Disney's creative issues. I don't care about who is playing Ariel, I care that Disney is clearly incapable of making a new story with new characters - a perfect conduit for diversity and representation. Nonetheless, get over it, or don't watch it. Its a fictional story about a fictional character.


But this ties into my aforementioned comments. No one with half a brain really cares about this at all. People outraged, claiming Disney is going "woke" are simply outraged for clout and exposure online. Same goes for those sounding the racist alarms on anyone who isn't a fan of this casting. Mountain out of a mole hill.

Ariel from Disney's 1989 animated classic (left) & Halle Baily, set to portray Ariel in the 2013 live action


While I think its an interesting conversation about pop culture focusing more on diversity and inclusion in general, the sentiment and intent isn't a bad thing. I saw numerous videos of young black children seeing the trailer for the new Little Mermaid and they were mesmerized by the fact that Ariel wasn't white in this new iteration. Inclusion and representation matters, but it needs to be handled properly, and not in a patronizing way.


I have often used Miles Morales' Spiderman as the perfect example of how to handle bringing more representation into popular character's worlds. Rather than make Peter Parker himself a different ethnicity, introduce a new character ripe with their own incredible backstory and culture.


GET OVER IT

My general reaction to anything Disney is doing nowadays is "meh" and my problem with the new Little Mermaid is that it's getting made at all. Disney needs to stop digging up old intellectual properties and making everything live action and spend more time and energy on good storytelling.


The Little Mermaid will likely be a continuation of the "just OK" trend for Disney live action remakes. Special effects will look fine, the story will be a beat for beat recreation of the animated film, the singers and music will be nostalgic and well done, but it will fail to capture the magic that was the original.


That failure is regardless of the ethnicity of any of the actors. For anyone to misconstrue the criticism of these films as "racist commentary" is perpetuating our communication problem and fails to see the forest for the trees.


Obviously racism is as real as the sun is hot, but the use of that word has diluted its true horrific meaning. While I am sure there are people out there having a coronary over this casting choice - does that include the internet trolls on twitter or the political pundits who want to dunk on "wokeism"?. Is anyone who isn't a fan of this casting choice automatically a racist?


Real instances of horrific prejudice should always be called out, but is every distasteful tweet worthy of response?


Nuance and context matters - but for this? Who cares. Its a movie about a mermaid and an evil octopus. Those who are spun up about this casting clearly have nothing better to do than to make snide remarks. Why give them the reaction they so clearly crave?


SELECTIVE OUTRAGE STRIKES AGAIN

Rather than be concerned with Ariel being casted with a black actress and calling each other racists in the process, perhaps we should spend more energy calling out Disney for their coziness to the human rights violation capital of the world: China.


We should be better about walking and chewing gum at the same time. Calling out those who make awful remarks to the new Ariel star doesn't mean you can't also chastise Disney for its ties to communist China.


Don't forget that China has reeducation camps (aka concentration camps) with Uyghur Muslims being forced into slave labor. And more importantly, never forget that Disney thanked the Chinese government for its help in producing the live action Mulan film - at locations near these concentration camps.


So, if your qualm is with black mermaids - get over it.

I will, however, take issue with any non-Jamaican casting of Sebastian the Lobster

 

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