Updated: Nov 21, 2022
By Morgan Carter
Recently the live action remake of the Little Mermaid, set to release in theaters on May 26, 2023, has been a topic of controversy due to the actress who was selected for the lead role. Halle Bailey, a Black woman, was cast for the role of Ariel which has upset many people because it doesn’t align with her portrayal in the animated version of the movie as a White woman. Some argue that because The Little Mermaid was such an important part of their childhood, it is important that she is portrayed the way she is in the animated film. However, the representation of Black people in the media, more specifically in children's films, is arguably more impactful and important because children having people that look like them in the media that they consume helps to promote a more positive view of themselves.
Previously, the only Disney princess that is portrayed as a Black woman was Tiana from the movie Princess and the Frog. Halle Bailey’s role as Ariel in the new live action Little Mermaid will help to increase representation in terms of Disney Princesses and help young children understand that there are no limits to their imagination and who they can be. It seems that a lot of the anger over the portrayal of a Black Little Mermaid is rooted in racism and the belief that Black people already have enough representation in the media when that is not necessarily the case especially in the realm of media aimed at children. Being a child and not seeing people within the media that you consume, who look like you creates a disconnect in the sense that they don’t have as many characters to relate to and may feel like they cannot fit that role. Ultimately, the portrayal of The Little Mermaid as a Black woman is a positive one for both children and adults and helps to promote the idea that there are no limits as to who can be cast for what roles.