Disney’s upcoming live-action movies spark controversy



On Sep. 29, Disney dropped a teaser for the upcoming live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” reigniting outrage over Disney choosing a Black woman to play Ariel — a choice that first prompted hate when they announced the casting of Halle Bailey in 2019.

On Sep. 29, Disney dropped a teaser for the upcoming live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” The teaser showed Halle Bailey as Ariel singing “Part of Your World,” a song from the original movie. The release reignited outrage over Disney choosing a Black woman to play Ariel, a choice that first prompted hate when they announced the casting of Bailey in 2019. Comments by racist critics flooded the internet, arguing that Disney was straying away from the original Danish story and Ariel’s white origin. 

Most of these critics are labeling Bailey as a “woke actress” and are upset over the fact that she is taking the role of a traditionally white character. The hashtag #NotmyAriel overran Twitter, filled with tweets criticizing the actress and Disney due to their constant decision to “make everything have to be Black,” according to one Twitter user. Another user went viral for using AI art to make Bailey’s skin white, proving that racism is at the root of these comments.

Others are calling out the racist comments, mentioning the fact that they’re arguing over a mythical creature that isn’t defined by race. Much of the criticism stems from the fact that the original Ariel is white, but many point out that the original movie is also about a fictional character who lives under the sea and is friends with talking animals. They believe that there is no point in making such a big deal over something that’s just a story.

Aside from all the racist remarks, some of the hate against Disney’s choice is generated from the idea of “forced diversity.” This is the idea that Disney is taking a shortcut to diversity and not creating new characters of color, changing the race of original characters instead. Although this seems like a valid argument, many people are using it to cover their racially motivated opinions, which can be seen with the previously mentioned tweets and the AI art.

Despite all the negative attention regarding Bailey’s casting, Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the music composers for the film, complimented director Rob Marshall’s decision to cast Bailey for the role. In an interview with “CNN Tonight” host Jake Tapper, Miranda said, “​​Frankly, Halle Bailey is a perfect Ariel. And Rob Marshall, I thought, showed incredible foresight to cast her … because the overwhelming majority of what I saw was [that] she looks and sounds incredible in that trailer.”

Even Bailey tuned in on Youtube and responded to all the hate she was receiving. “I felt like I grew with Ariel’s character in a way … I think that was the biggest takeaway for me, just to believe in myself and know that I’m worthy,” she explained. 

She also acknowledged the controversy around casting a Black woman to play Ariel. “The fact that it’s sparking such a discussion for all of us … I mean, I know what it would’ve meant to me as a little girl to have been able to see a Black Ariel,” Bailey said.

Now that Bailey is playing the role of the Black Ariel she would have loved to see, she’s inspiring thousands of other little girls. Videos of young Black girls reacting to the teaser trailer have emerged all over social media, from Tiktok to Twitter. Many of them show the girls exclaiming in excitement over the fact that the princess looks just like them. Despite the controversy amid the trailer’s release, Bailey’s casting is already proving to have a significant positive impact.

Despite these positive videos, the controversy continues to get heated with Disney’s latest character race swap. Recently, Disney “fans” have been taken aback by the announcement that Latina actress Rachel Zegler is cast to play Snow White in the upcoming live-action release in 2024. Similar to the #NotmyAriel controversy, race-conscious commenters argue against the race swap, saying the original character is white, as her name suggests, and in the original movie is described as having “skin as white as snow.” 

Looking at both “Snow White” and “The Little Mermaid,” people all over the internet stand on opposing sides of the issue, some arguing against the race swap while others don’t mind Disney’s decision. Despite all the concerns and arguments, many hope for all the controversy to end and want to highlight the positives of Disney’s decision, the increase in diversity and all the optimistic reactions from young girls. “The Little Mermaid” comes out May 26, 2023 and the upcoming “Snow White” is set to release in 2024.