Throughout history, many animated films have placed memorial value on children’s hearts. From fairytales to superheroes, they all cast the same storyline that many people know and love. With variations of the same tale told numerous times, the message remains constant. Films such as Lion King, Lilo & Stitch, and even Brother Bear have created sequels to keep the infamous storyline going. From animation to live action, they come in formats of plays (Shrek) and even movies. In 2022, what has become a thriller for many to be in rage for is the new Little Mermaid trailer starring African-American actress Halle Bailey.
Based on the original film “The Little Mermaid”, the synopsis of the new version is about a mermaid who makes a deal with a sea witch in exchange for her voice in order to have human legs. By doing so, the hopes of the mermaid is to discover the real world beyond being under the sea. She also wants to impress a prince that’s caught her eyes.
The film that many are used to seeing features Ariel as a European white mermaid that still has the same storyline. By changing the dynamic of the live-action film, many people see this in a negative light due to the mermaid character Ariel being casted as a person of color. According to Forbes, the trailer that was presented on YouTube weeks ago has over 1.5 million dislikes and still counting. It wasn’t until recent news that YouTube has removed the dislike count, but the media still continues to revert to anger.
According to The Guardian, Mat Walsh added to the controversy by stating that “…from a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean. If anything, not only should the Little Mermaid be pale, she should, actually, be translucent. If you look at deep-sea creatures, they’re translucent. They have no kind of pigmentation whatsoever … [The Little Mermaid] should be totally pale and skeletal where you can see her skull through her face.”
Although most of the controversy is seen in a negative light, mermaids are in fact not real. When it comes to asking students about their thoughts on the controversy, many of them had various viewpoints. Aaron Mathews believed that the director chose Bailey for the role due to her being a perfect fit rather the concept of diversity. As a sophomore, Mathews continues his statement saying that many people are taking the diverse controversy out of context.
Aiden Sensabaugh who is a business major stated, “It’s just more the fact of the matter that the original Little Mermaid historically lies in Dutch folklore. Dutch folklore is predominantly white and Dutch is very much very white culture, so race swapping is kind of odd in that matter. I personally don’t have an issue with it, but the controversy of course is there and makes it interesting.”
As an Appalachian Studies major, Grace Summerbell began to shed light directors creating more diverse films for children. With the issue that people of color are playing originally white roles, Summerbell emphasized that people of color did not have much representation in the past to begin with. She continues to add, “…but I know what it’s like to have representation growing up and even now because you know everything back then was white. I think it’s really important for these…even adults, children, everybody now to see this representation ’cause it would be hard to grow up without any of that.”
Ciara Godfree who is a Physical Education major claimed that having diversity at a young age will make the younger generation become more inclusive and teach them more lessons that their parents wouldn’t. When asked if the controversy would be an uproar if Ariel was a man, Godfree opposed to the question. With there being stereotypes with men and women in film, men are always accepted to her belief.
To gain the point of view from a nursing major, Therri Simmick agrees that any change to a classic film will cause an uproar. She adds to say that an uproar will rise from various communities, and it will be something people will have to adjust to. To further her point, “Changes and especially in this new day and age I feel like they’re gonna be a lot of changes to try to make classic films and TV shows in different animations that are more relatable for everybody…I think there are always going to be there’s always going to be an uproar when it comes to that because of people who are used to what we have.”
The Little Mermaid movie will be airing in May of 2023, and time will tell what’s in store as the film is broadcasted among many.