Halle Bailey is not the typical white actress some people wanted the new Ariel to be, and they’re not happy. You have probably heard about the cast for the upcoming live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It will feature Melissa McCarthy as Ursula and also Awkwafina somewhere in there – which I am personally ecstatic about. From what I’ve gathered, those opposed to Bailey as Ariel are basing their arguments on science, upholding history and mythology, being against the changing of classics, and representation for red-heads. Let’s have a look at how flimsy these arguments are, shall we?
If you don’t know her, Halle Bailey is a 19-year-old actress from Grown-ish, and a couple of other movies. And let me tell you, her singing is phenomenal. Give her a look on Youtube, you will not be disappointed. If her talent isn’t enough to convince you she’s the perfect Ariel, maybe us clearly pointing out the flaws in the following arguments against the casting of Ariel will:
The Science Argument
Now first there’s the scientific argument. Oh, but her melanin, I’ve seen people complain, she wouldn’t have been able to get enough sun to maintain that skin colour. Are you serious, internet?
Tell me, how’s that whole human-fish hybrid coming along, scientists? Oh, it’s not? You mean – mermaids aren’t real? And they won’t ever be?
Well, my whole life view just crumbled (not).
Who is the target audience for The Little Mermaid? Children. Not scientists, not academics, not adults who need things to be logical and factually correct for them to suspend their belief. This is a fantastical adventure for children. I don’t think I have ever heard someone complain before that the old man Kuzco threw out of a window survived.
It’s a children’s’ movie. Children do not know about melanin, they do not care about melanin. Their understanding of life and reality is not going to be compromised because things occur in movies outside of alleged factual possibilities. And if they have questions, there’s a very simple answer, isn’t there?
There are people of all shapes, sizes and colours – everywhere in the world.
The History & Mythology Argument
The argument of maintaining history and mythology becomes really weak when you actually do some research. First of all, the folklore of mermaids spreads across the globe, including Africa! In fact, some of the earliest mermaid stories come from the ancient Middle East, or what was once known as Assyria. So no, the skin-colour of a mermaid is not compromising its folklore – at all. Secondly, the tales and stories of mermaids are diverse and numerous, so which one should we be maintaining here?
Must we really care what was in the originals to the point of debating skin-colour? Do we expect to see the same degradation of women as was present in Andersen’s classic tale? Where do we draw the line of how much of a classic can be adapted and what is too far? Who gets to decide that? It makes me wonder if these people complaining about changing classics would also complain about how Disney changed the ending of Anderson’s The Little Mermaid so that she didn’t die. Would they also be mad that Disney excluded that in order to gain those graceful legs of hers, Ariel would have to deal with excruciating pain at every step?
The fact of the matter is that classics are always undergoing revision. They are always being appropriated and restructured to appeal again to new audiences. How many different Sherlock Holmes adaptations have we seen? We cannot keep spewing out the same pieces of literature and film. They must evolve in some way or another.
The core of Ariel’s character will always be of more importance than her outside physical appearance. Besides, such a move of inclusion can only do good. People need to chill.
“We shouldn’t change classics”
When discussing fairy tales themselves, I hate to break it to people, but the versions we all know and love are not the originals. No one knows exactly what the originals are. Most of the written versions come from oral traditions and stories.
Fairy tale adaptations are in tune with the contextual morality within the society they’re produced in. Just as the Grimm’s brothers remastered the oral tales they gathered to be palatable to their social beliefs, so too do we now. Why should a new adaptation do anything less than represent strides in society, changing ideals and wider acceptance? Arguing that we should honour the original fairy tales by an identical replication doesn’t make sense. It goes against their very nature.
This representation is needed. It is overdue. It is going to mean so much to so many little girls who see themselves in Halle Bailey.
Another group of people I saw upset about this decision was red-heads. I get it, you guys suffered a lot about your appearance not being up to conventional beauty standards. Not to mention all those soul-less jokes. But you had your representation in the original movie. You want to see yourself again, I ask that you watch that movie. Or Aquaman. Or Brave. Or Frozen. Or Princess Anastasia. Or even Hercules. And no doubt, the many more movies coming in the future.
In the end, this isn’t about science. This isn’t about holding true to tradition and history. And even if it was, not everything that is old and was once treasured is good, or worth keeping. Fairy tales by their very nature will always be subject to change, and so will classics. According to the director Rob Marshall, Halle Bailey has the “intrinsic qualities” of Ariel. She has “spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance”, and that is what is truly important.