Who Is the Real Little Mermaid?
Who Is the Real Little Mermaid?
  • Jun Eun-jin (ST Reporter)
  • 승인 2023.01.13 14:15
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One of the main issues at Disney is that, the main character in the animated live-action movie The Little Mermaid is black. There were plenty of disagreement about the black mermaid in the movie, and it became a major issue. What do you think about this though? Should the Little Mermaid be a pretty, white mermaid that was originally reflected in the animation? Does it matter if it is about a pretty, black mermaid?..................................... Ed


 Walt Disney‘s animation is loved by adults as well as children. It is because it is not just an animation, but it teaches us a lesson. Starting with Mickey Mouse, there were so many box-office hits that it is difficult to pick one representative film, including Lion King, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Frozen. Not only animation but also movies that made it real were so loved. Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book are good examples. However, there has been a major contention in the recent process of making the animation The Little Mermaid into a live-action movie. The actress cast in the role of The Little Mermaid was a black woman, not a white woman we are familiar with.

 Released in 1989, the animation The Little Mermaid was loved by so many people that it became Disney‘s signature work. Many people and the media were paying attention to the news that the representative work would be made into a live-action film. Expectations were high for whom would play the role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. However, the casting result for Ariel last year was unexpected. This is because it was a black woman with reggae hair, not a red-haired, white mermaid. The actor is Harley Bailey, an American R&B singer. There were two opinions about the casting, divided into favorable and negative opinions on the black mermaid. A favorable opinion was that, with a new attempt, The Little Mermaid did not have to be white. However, the negative opinion is that the fact that The Little Mermaid being white has long been taken for granted, so it should match the theme of the “liveaction” production.

 Amid the controversy, an official trailer video of The Little Mermaid was posted on Disney‘s official YouTube channel on September 10 this year. The Little Mermaid in the video was the figure of the little mermaid that people were concerned about. The controversy has grown since the trailer was released. The Little Mermaid in the trailer was different from The Little Mermaid in the animation. It was a black mermaid with curly hair. Immediately after the trailer was released, the number of ‘dislikes’ reached 2.7 million. Negative public opinion did not end there. The controversy on the black mermaid has grown, with a hashtag movement called #NotMyAriel taking place on social media. Finally, a video clip using AI technology turned black actors into white in the trailer. A Twitter user was suspended for making a video that turned Disney‘s black mermaid into a white one. Matt Walsh, an American online political critic, argued, ”From a scientific point of view, a dark-skinned mermaid does not make sense. The mermaid‘s skin should be deep, biomimetic, pale, or translucent.”

 Harley Bailey, who plays Ariel at the center of the controversy, conveyed her position, ”I‘m so honored to play Ariel, the dreamy princess in Disney‘s movie, The Little Mermaid. I do not care about negative words. I think this role will make me more beautiful and greater.” Here is Disney‘s position. Director Rob Marshall, who directed The Little Mermaid, said he cast Harley Bailey as Ariel in the past, and continued, ”A rare talent with a dazzling voice as well as spirit, passion, innocence, and youth.” He further added that the only norm in casting for The Little Mermaid was the talent of the actress. Disney also said, ”The Danish, who is black, can also have genetically red hair. The Little Mermaid is fiction. If you cannot accept our choice because it does not fit the image in the animation, it is your problem.” Meanwhile, black people have been emotional, and not critical, amid this controversy. When the trailer was released, black children‘s reaction videos became a big issue on the video platform TikTok. The children‘s reaction rather overshadowed the criticism that poured out as a result of the casting controversy. “She is a black woman, she is a momma, she is black, that is an Ariel... (That‘s Ariel...) I am crying,” the children said, expressing their overwhelming feelings. In most animations featuring the princess, it was common that the main character used to be white, not black. So, the black mermaid impressed black children.



 Rob Marshall says of the controversy, ”Anyone can be a mermaid.” Although the movie has not been released yet, people are worried that the imaginary Little Mermaid will become a reality. Attention is focused on whether negative public opinion will change or remain the same after the release of the movie.


Jun Eun-jin (ST Reporter)


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