When Disney announced in early July that actress and singer Halle Bailey would be portraying Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, there was a mix of reactions in the media revolving around their decision in casting her. Many argued that it would be “injustice” to the original depiction of Ariel in The Little Mermaid (1989) film, as Ariel is traditionally white and Halle is a black woman. On the other hand, several praised Disney for making such a monumental step toward representation for black women in Disney.
What’s important about Disney’s decision to cast Halle as a character who has been presented as a canonically white princess for decades is that young black girls and boys will be able to see themselves in Ariel and resonate with her character. We live in a country where we have an industry that produces a very small number of movies showcasing black princesses, and that’s why Halle’s part in this upcoming film is so uplifting and needed. Every child should be given the chance to see someone that looks like them on the big screen and feel inspired.
Many have argued that because Ariel is traditionally white, giving the role to Halle would go against the original portrayal of the Disney princess and shouldn’t have been carried out. To counter this, Ariel is a mythical creature, a mermaid to be specific, which means that she can be portrayed by any kind of race; her racial background in previous interpretations has not contributed to the story’s plot-line. Her determined, free-spirited, and charismatic character is what strings the tale together, and anyone should be allowed to take on that role.
Another reason, and perhaps the most noteworthy reason, of why Halle Bailey fulfills the expectations of princess Ariel is her inevitable talent. Ariel’s delicate and gracious voice plays a significant aspect of the story, and Halle encapsulates exactly that to play the princess. Through posted videos of her singing, she displays her ability to have a pure and exquisite voice that Ariel has in the 1989 The Little Mermaid animated film.
Through her talent, excitement, and passion for her casting in the role as Ariel, Halle Bailey possesses what it takes to portray the iconic character that is Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid live-action remake. Her casting will shed light on representation for black women in Disney films, and will bring justice to the character of Ariel that many claim doesn’t.
– Joylyn Gong