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Fans Point Out Halle Bailey Isn’t Disney’s First Black Mermaid

From the trailer for the live-action version of Disney The little Mermaid Dropped September 9 at Expo D23, the film caused a stir on social media, but for all the wrong reasons.

Although many fans were thrilled to see Disney’s first live-action black princess on screen, the clip reignited backlash, described as racist, against star Halle Bailey. In 2019, the decision to cast the then 18-year-old singer and actress as Ariel was criticized by a subset of fans. Now, negative commenters have again taken to social media to share their disapproval.

Despite the furor, Bailey’s Ariel isn’t the first time Disney has featured a dark mermaid, as one Reddit user pointed out.

Posting to r/s*****moviedetails on Wednesday, user u/PeterPorky shared a photo from the movie of Ariel alongside Gabriella, a black character from the Little Mermaid animated television series, which CBS aired from 1992 to 1994.

“In The Little Mermaid…Ariel meets an African mermaid from Ivory Coast. It’s because mermaids are fictional and may be black,” the user wrote alongside the image.

Many fans were surprised by this new piece of Mermaid historic, with the post receiving over 100,000 upvotes.

While Bailey donned Ariel’s signature green tail, red hair and purple bra for the role, there were complaints against Disney for not choosing a white actress to match the animated movie. 1989. the The hashtag #NotMyAriel started trending on Twitter once the trailer went live, and wwithin 48 hours, the clip had received 1.5 million dislikes on YouTube. The video-sharing site has disabled the ‘dislike’ button, but those who were unhappy took to the comments section to share their fury.

Arguments why a black actress can’t play Ariel have grown increasingly bizarre. Even though she’s a fictional character whose best friend is a talking fish, right-wing commentator Matt Walsh said a black Ariel isn’t “scientific.”

“With The little Mermaidcan we just mention that, from a scientific point of view, it doesn’t make much sense to have someone with darker skin living at the bottom of the ocean,” he said on his podcast Walsh has since said he was making a “joke.”

Director Rob Marshall was watching the 2019 Grammys on TV when he first saw Bailey. One half of R&B duo Halle x Chloe, she sang “Where Is the Love” alongside her sister at the awards show.

Marshall was fascinated by the young star’s unique voice and asked her to audition for the film. She sang Ariel’s signature song, “A Part of That World”, which left Marshall “in tears”.

hey said Variety“You could tell right away that she was able to harness Ariel’s passion, her fire, her soul, her joy and her heart.”

Despite the negative reactions to the casting, it has a positive impact. People of color shared videos of their children’s enthusiastic reactions to the new Ariel, and reactions posted online showed the importance of diverse representation.

In the Little Mermaid TV series, Gabriella was a black mermaid who considered Ariel a big sister. A great singer, Gabriella was deaf and communicated in sign language, and was specifically created to enhance performance.

Reddit users seemed to agree that arguing over a fictional creature’s race was absurd, with VaderSkywalker2007 writing that “they’re all green.”

“They can also be blue or purple,” IndraBlue said.

Meanwhile, user Agreeable-Weather-89 wrote that the mermaids are “delusions of sex-deprived sailors who mistook manatees for wives”.

The little Mermaid hits theaters on May 26, 2023 and is expected to arrive on Disney+ shortly after.

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