NotMyAriel: Why The African American Little Mermaid Is Cool

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NotMyAriel: Why The African American Little Mermaid Is Cool
NotMyAriel: Why The African American Little Mermaid Is Cool

Video: NotMyAriel: Why The African American Little Mermaid Is Cool

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Video: The Little Mermaid CANNOT Be Black | #NotMyAriel 2023, January

Alexandra Savina

Recently, the Disney studio approved the actress for the role of Ariel in the upcoming game remake of The Little Mermaid. She will be played by Halle Bailey, a singer known for the group Chloe x Halle, which she created with her sister. It would be just one of the many casting news out there, but it's not that simple: Bailey is African American and her appointment caused a strong reaction. While some were happy that the cast of Disney cinema was finally becoming more diverse, others, on the contrary, were outraged that the studio was going against the cartoon “original source”, where the main character is a fair-skinned red-haired girl inspired by actress Alyssa Milano.

You don't have to go far to see the full spectrum of casting indignation - just look at any comment thread under this news or on Twitter, where the #NotMyAriel hashtag made it to the top. One of the most common arguments is that Halle Bailey does not correspond to the tale of Hans Christian Andersen: the heroine of the Danish work is supposedly obliged to have a white skin color. Indeed, in the original source there is a description of the mermaid's appearance: “All six princesses were pretty little mermaids, but the youngest, delicate and transparent, like a rose petal, with deep blue, like the sea, eyes, was best of all. But she, like other mermaids, had no legs, but only a fish tail. " Even putting aside the fact that "transparent as a rose petal" does not mean "white skin" (after all, roses come in all kinds of colors!), Disney cartoons can hardly be called true to the original. For example, Andersen's heroine is faced with a difficult choice: she must kill the prince or die herself - but instead she throws herself into the water. There she is found by the mythical daughters of the air - together with them she will try to gain immortality, doing good deeds, and not at all happily marry, as in the cartoon. And this is far from the only example: The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1996, based on the Notre Dame Cathedral, also ends with a happy union. In the cartoon, the gypsy Esmeralda stays with Captain Phoebus, and Quasimodo steps aside so as not to interfere with their happiness. In Hugo's original, we recall that Esmeralda and Quasimodo die - and this bears little resemblance to the Disney storyline.

Of course, it is likely that while creating The Little Mermaid, Andersen was thinking about a white-skinned girl. But the tale was written in 1837 and corresponds to the worldview of the nineteenth century, and the world has changed a lot since then. It is not surprising that favorite old stories do not stand the test of time - and this also affected fairy tales and their new adaptations. In the recently released Aladdin, for example, Jasmine is not a "maiden in trouble", but a completely independent heroine, who in the end becomes the sultan (sultana!) Of the Agrabs. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle becomes an inventor - which is not bad considering how often the story is criticized for glorifying Stockholm Syndrome. Even earlier, Disney tried to revise Sleeping Beauty from a “female” perspective, where Maleficent is not just a vengeful villain, but a heroine with a backstory and motivation, a victim of betrayal. The original "Little Mermaid" is also not the most progressive and feminist message: the heroine goes to great sacrifices to win the heart of the prince. It is not surprising that they want to make this story more in line with the spirit of the times.

Another popular argument of opponents of Halle Bailey in the role of Ariel is "biological": the little mermaid lives under water, where the sun's rays do not penetrate, which means that she must have white skin. Even if we leave aside the unscientific argument (the color and tone of the skin is not tan and is not explained by how much time a person spends in the sun), questions still remain for him.If we are so focused on biological validity, why shouldn't Ariel then look like a deep-sea fish - transparent, with fangs and a flashlight? What about the fact that in the animated series about the mermaid, a mermaid with a different skin color has already met? Finally, why is it easy for us to accept a fishtail, a shell bra, and the magic surrounding Ariel - but a different skin color seems too radical a change? Of course, there are hundreds of reasons why the new Ariel will be "wrong", but it seems all this is just a way to rationalize racist views - albeit relatively benevolent ones.

The viewers who are outraged that the new Ariel does not look like the little mermaid of their childhood can be understood. Many have warm childhood memories associated with the cartoon, many associated themselves with the main character and dreamed of dyeing their hair bright red. The only problem is that for a long time all Disney princesses were exclusively white - girls with a different appearance simply had no one to associate themselves with. The first full-length Disney cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, appeared in 1937. The first African-American heroine appeared in the studio's works only 72 years later, in 2009, in the cartoon The Princess and the Frog. This is not to say that Disney was doing well with representation before. Heroines of other origins, apart from The Jungle Book and Peter Pan, began to appear widely in their cartoons only in the nineties: Princess Jasmine (1992), Pocahontas (1995), Esmeralda (1996), Mulan (1998), Lilo (2002). At the same time, what appeared on the screens often turned out to be full of racist stereotypes: remember the “savages” and “civilized people” in Pocahontas or the abstract “East”, where a hand is cut off for theft, in “Aladdin”. Moreover, racism showed through in the details - for example, the positive hero Aladdin has a much more "Europeanized" appearance than the villain Jafar.

Outraged by the fact that people with white skin are deprived of their cultural "heritage" - a white-skinned mermaid - they forget that people with a different appearance and origin had practically no such "heritage" for many years. The idea that if Pocahontas were played by a white actress, it would have caused quite similar outrage, it seems logical only at first glance. The stories of Pocahontas, Mulan and Tiana are directly related to their origins and, accordingly, their appearance and skin color. And today such heroines are still not the majority - there is Moana, but there is Elsa and Anna, to whom the second cartoon is already dedicated, Merida from Braveheart and Rapunzel. There is a new Ariel - Halle Bailey, and then there is Lily James as Cinderella, Emma Watson as Belle and Mia Wasikowska as Alice. The new Little Mermaid and Ariel are, of course, a reason for joy. But the really radical move for Disney would be to shoot new stories instead of remakes, giving voice to people from all backgrounds. True, so far this is too bold an idea for them.

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