Network Gives Opponents of 'Ariel' Casting an Earful

Halle Bailey to play the role in live-action The Little Mermaid
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2019 7:02 PM CDT
Network Gives Opponents of 'Ariel' Casting an Earful
This image released by Disney shows Ariel, voiced by Jodi Benson, in a scene from the 1989 film version of "The Little Mermaid."   (Disney via AP)

When Freeform announced its choice to play "Ariel" in its upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, much of the response was positive. Halle Bailey is a singer, half of a duo with her sister, Chloe x Halle. She already stars in the cable network's series Grown-ish. But she's not white. Some people took to social media to oppose her casting for that reason, using the hashtag #NotMyAriel. After a few days of that, per the Hollywood Reporter, the network—which is owned by Disney—posted a response that leaves no doubt where it believes the problem is.

  • "An open letter to the Poor, Unfortunate Souls" on Instagram pointed out to social media critics that the character is fictional. "Ariel" isn't real, Freeform confirmed. The Little Mermaid's original author was Danish, as some had argued in opposing Bailey, but "Danish mermaids can be black because Danish people can be black," the network said, per the Reporter. "[If] you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than the INSPIRED casting that it is because she 'doesn’t look like the cartoon one,'" the post said, "Oh boy, do I have some news for you … about you."
  • Rob Marshall, who will direct the film, said there was an extensive search for the right "Ariel." He issued a statement saying, "it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role."

  • Twitter criticism quickly followed the casting announcement, per BET: "Ariel must be a cute girl with white skin and red hair singing sweet and crisp!" "Us white girls, who grew up with The Little Mermaid, deserved a true-to-color Ariel." "The little mermaid was written as white, was white in the film, is based in Denmark and based on a European fairy tale, but is cast as black... How is this not racist and cultural appropriation?"
  • There were supportive posts, per BET, some wondering why it's an issue and saying race plays no discernible role in the story, seeing as she's "a cartoon fish woman." Another asked, "Like what is Ariel’s ethnic or cultural"
  • The original "Ariel" endorsed Bailey. Jodi Benson voiced the part in the 1989 animated film. "What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts," Benson told a convention over the weekend, per US Magazine.
  • Fan art popped up quickly, Forbes reports, with artists including a Marvel illustrator and storyboard artists depicting Bailey in the role and imagining "Ariels" of all shades. One artist posted, per the Huffington Post: "Now many little black girls around the world will be able to look at their screens and say 'That's me! I can be a mermaid too!!'"
(More Halle Bailey stories.)

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