There is no question that Hollywood has, over the course of film history, made some very poor casting choices. May times it takes the form of decidedly white actors playing decidedly non-white characters. This goes back decades; John Wayne as Genghis Kahn is an easy example. In such cases, the criticism is well-earned. But… with the advent of the Internet, casting aspersions for casting choices has become all too easy, and more and more misplaced. And yes, a good portion of it these days is deeply rooted in racism. Don’t believe me? Look no further than what’s transpired with House of the Dragon, The Rings of Power, and again, with The Little Mermaid.
I won’t, in this article, provide citations to the blatantly racist social media posts decrying a dark-skinned Velaryon, or Hobbit, or mermaid. Those spouting such vitriol don’t deserve, and won’t get from me, another platform showcasing their ignorance and hatred. This writing won’t change their minds, anyway. Nevertheless, it pains me to know that so many would berate and belittle the amazing Halle Bailey for bringing Ariel to life in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. If casting someone other than a fair-skinned, natural redhead as a fictional siren “ruins your childhood,” you need far more help than I can offer.
Halle Bailey already shines as The Little Mermaid
Lost in the discussion, and I use the term “discussion” loosely, of Ariel’s skin color in The Little Mermaid is the simple fact that we’re talking about a fictional character. Guess what, folks: George R.R. Martin made Velaryons up. Hobbits were born of the imagination of J R. R. Tolkien. And mermaids? Not real. We’re not talking about casting Will Smith as Dwight D. Eisenhower, nor is anyone suggesting the casting of Russell Crowe as Martin Luther King, Jr. We’re talking about fictional characters that can be literally anything, or any skin tone, imaginable. The fact you keep one image of Ariel in your head does not mean that the completely made-up character can’t be something different in someone else’s. So why does this version of The Little Mermaid anger you so, other than small-minded racism?
I’ll leave you with this: parents everywhere recorded the reactions of their daughters coming to the realization that Halle Bailey’s Ariel looks just like them. It’s incredibly endearing, uplifting, and inspiring. If you can’t appreciate the sheer joy on these young girls’ faces, I seriously question your worth as a human being. The Little Mermaid isn’t the problem. Disney isn’t the problem.