“Black Little Mermaid” Discussion Prompts Comparison to “14 Year Old Pocahontas”

in Disney, Movies

Halle Bailey as 'The Little Mermaid' sings.

Credit: Disney

The discussion over the upcoming live-action movie The Little Mermaid is getting heated.

the little mermaid disney wish
Credit: D23

During this year’s D23 Expo, The Walt Disney Company unveiled the first official trailer for The Little Mermaid (2023), and Disney fans’ first official glimpse at Halle Bailey’s Ariel.

This new film will be a reimagining of the 1989 Disney Renaissance classic, The Little Mermaid starring Jodi Benson as the youngest red-haired daughter of the Sea King, King Triton (Kenneth Mars), who journeys onto land to find her love, Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) after bargaining away her voice to Ursula, the Sea Witch (Pat Carroll).

ariel kiss the girl
Credit: Disney

While many were blown away by her gorgeous pipes and considerable talent at portraying the naive, young underwater mer-princess, many others were upset with the casting choice — mostly due to her race.

This new film will attempt to capture The Little Mermaid in its own unique way, with Rob Marshall directing. It will also star Melissa McCarthy as Ursula the Sea Witch, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, and Awkwafina as Scuttle the seagull, alongside Halle Bailey as Ariel. The movie will also feature original music by the 1989 film’s original composer, Alan Menken, as well as the musical Hamilton‘s star and creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda — who’s also lent his musical talents to other big Disney projects, namely Moana (2016) and Encanto (2022).

ursula
Credit: Disney

Related: Watch LEAKED Footage of Halle Bailey In ‘The Little Mermaid’

Despite many young Black girls finding joy in seeing Halle Bailey on the big screen, several people have also taken to posting racist comments about Bailey being cast as Ariel, even starting the movement and hashtag #NotMyAriel.

It is amid all of this controversy that Twitter user @LakotaMan1 shared the following sentiment in a tweet, stating that:

White people protesting a Black Little Mermaid were perfectly ok with a 28 year old Captain John Smith falling in love with a 14 year old Pocahontas.

@LakotaMan1 followed up with:

Dr. Sydney Watson added, highlighting the liberties Disney took when interpreting the character by aging her up in their 1995 film, Pocahontas:

Ah yes. The appearance of your average 14 year old.

While @Burnouts3s3 decided to contribute a bit of Walt Disney Company history:

Pocahontas was originally going to be a kid character, but then Producer Jeffery Katzenberg, told the animators to make her into an adult. Katzenberg really wanted an academy award and nothing sells Oscar bait like Star Crossed Romances. His “West Side Story / Romeo & Juliet”.

@houseoframos shared @christiegrrrl’s post, which showcases a heartwarming video compilation of little Black girls reacting to seeing a Black Ariel in a Disney film. like in the article linked above:

@houseoframos: How can anyone be mad, look at these sweet girls. 💕

@christiegrrrl (quoted): Nothing makes me smile more than watching these precious little girls realizing Ariel is a beautiful black mermaid. I can watch these videos all day long. I cannot wait for the movie!! So precious! #LittleMermaid

Ron Dukes seemed to agree to the sentiment regarding “white people protesting”, adding:

“Elves can’t be black”
“Mermaids can’t be black”
“Captain America can’t be black”
“Jedi’s can’t be black” (we didn’t forget about The Force Awakens)

-from the people that thought a man from the Middle East was blonde and blue-eyed.

Interestingly, Chris Larsen offered a different view as a Danish person, having grown up with the original Hans Christian Andersen tale:

I’m Danish. I grew up on the REAL version of The Little Mermaid. Having her portrayed by a Black actress doesn’t impact the legacy of Hans Christian Anderson.

What does, is having an American company rewrite the story to suit their imperialist values.

Go complain about that.

Evidently, it is because of the fact that original The Little Mermaid creator, Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Little Mermaid as a metaphor for unrequited love, as a gay man during that period, and the Disney version rewrites the story to have a happy, blissful ending to “serve” their own values.

There’s so much controversy surrounding this new movie, and as more and more information floats to the surface, it’s likely that this will not be the end of the discussion on race and intention for The Walt Disney Company’s newest iterations of The Little Mermaid tale.

What do you think of this backlash, and the comment on people being “perfectly ok” with “14 year old Pocahontas”? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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