The Little Mermaid doesn't have to be white

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Feminist Circle
I don't care if this essay convinces people who think otherwise or not, I just felt like it needed to be said.

*This article by Pride covers the subject well enough: https://www.pride.com/movies/2019/7/08/little-mermaid-was-originally-metaphor-unrequited-gay-love

Submitted: July 13, 2019

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Submitted: July 13, 2019

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With the remake of The Little Mermaid coming out in 2020 and Halle Bailey being cast as Ariel, some fans of the original --who are too old to be so fervent about a Disney movie-- have voiced their disappointment in a black actress playing the role of a white character.

Well, here’s the thing; the reason why Ariel is a “Danish Princess” is that Hans Christian Andersen, the original writer of The Little Mermaid, was Danish himself. That’s pretty much the only tie Ariel has to Denmark. Besides, Andersen probably had more relevant issues to care about than the color of a mermaid’s skin, considering his story might have been a metaphor for his unrequited love for a man.*

Since we’re talking about the initial Little Mermaid, if you're arguing that Ariel should be white because it's a Danish tale, then you ignore that the Disney interpretation that came out a century after Hans’ story is far different. In Hans’ story, it only gets worse for Ariel after she becomes human; her legs bring her excruciating pain, but she suffers to remain with her beloved prince, who later marries another woman. The mermaid then dies heartbroken and dissolves into sea foam. Yeah, “happily ever after” wasn’t a thing back in the day.

So no, you don’t mean these origins, rather, you want Ariel from 2020 to resemble Ariel from 1989, but the Ariel from the late-eighties was created in a predominantly white industry, in a society that had made the stellar accomplishment of overcoming racial segregation… twenty years before so. In short, people were a lot more racist back in the day than they are now, considering the first black princess made her appearance in 2009, after seventy years of white princesses (Snow White came out in 1937 in comparison).

Disney isn’t remaking their movies for the fun of seeing our childhood characters played by real people. The live-actions carry these stories forward to represent the present state of the world we live in, as the first movies were also a depiction of their time. Besides, if the live-action is exactly like the original, then what’s the point of the remake? The legacy Disney tales carry isn’t in the appearance of their characters, but in the lessons you learn from them.

The people of color of our time deserve what the people of color of the last century deserved but didn’t receive; representation. Little girls of color deserve to see more princesses that resemble them. And if society, which has become far more diverse than it was in the eighties, wants to make a step forward in overcoming the racism that has plagued it for centuries, it should do a better job at cheering on Halle Bailey for her role. I believe she will make for a lovely Ariel.

 


© Copyright 2019 Christy the moonchild. All rights reserved.

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