OPINION: The Backlash Against The Live Action The Little Mermaid Is Rooted in Selfishness and Racism


Zoe Long, Co-Editor-In-Chief

On September 9, Disney Studios released the official teaser trailer of the new live action The Little Mermaid. The trailer includes shots of the amazing animation soon coming to our screens of under the sea life and our beautiful lead, Ariel. It includes a short excerpt of the song Part of Your World, sung beautifully I might add. All in all, this trailer is exquisite. The visuals are gorgeous, the voice of the actress playing Ariel is flawless, and it’s always a huge pleasure to watch something influential from your childhood evolve into something new. However, many people didn’t feel the same at all, simply because of the race of the lovely woman playing Ariel. 

The original Little Mermaid was released in 1989, and Ariel was white. She had bright red hair, ocean blue eyes, and infectious curiosity. Her race had little to do with her character. Perhaps nothing at all. The woman that Disney has casted to play Ariel in the live action version of The Little Mermaid is named Halle Bailey. People may know her from The Color Purple, Grown-ish, or (my personal favorite) Let It Shine. She also has released various songs. Bailey is a 22 year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, and she is black. If you have watched the trailer, you can see that this black woman is just as red-headed and endlessly curious as the Ariel we were introduced to in 1989, they just don’t look alike or share their race. 

The vicious and truly disgusting racist backlash started immediately after the teaser was released. I’m going to cite a few examples of facebook posts, memes, or anything else I have stumbled across on the internet that exhibits this frankly violent and ignorant retaliation. First off being a facebook group that was created named: “Christians against the Little Mermaid”. This is already horrifying in itself. To create an entire Facebook group to denounce a movie that hasn’t even come out yet and bully an actress that you know little to nothing about is purely foolish, and in this case extremely racist. As you enter this Facebook chain, it only gets worse. There are many specific posts that stood out to me, all for the wrong reasons, and I’m going to create a short list below: 

  1. A meme of Samuel L. Jackson’s face pasted onto King Trident with the caption “Under the Mutha F***in Sea!”
  2. A written post saying: “Lil mermaid is gonna be black? That’s dumb. No black women ever in history likes getting their weave wet, especially for no movie”. 
  3. Another written post saying: “GREAT. Now my daughter is crying because her favorite mermaid looks like she’s been in the oven too long”. 
  4. A meme editing the original cartoon Ariel to have darker skin, a larger nose, and large teeth with an image of watermelon pasted onto the bottom. 
  5. A meme with the image of a children’s toy titled “The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys” with a pasted image of Halle Bailey on the toy. 
  6. Another written post saying “Your kind doesn’t even know how to swim…how the f**k you gonna star a mermaid”. 
  7. (Last but certainly not least) An edited image of a mermaid silhouette in shackles with the caption: “The Little Slave”. 


The sickness was overwhelming when reading the posts. The selfishness that radiates from these posts is horrifying. As a white woman, I have had role models on the TV screen my entire life. Belle, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and more. And for that matter, the voice actors (although there was more than one for each of these roles) of Jasmine, Mulan, and Pocahontas were white. Even as Disney began to give POC children role models on their screens, they didn’t cast POC people to voice them. POC women and children didn’t have a true role model on television until The Princess and The Frog in 2009. Another known fact is some of these stories are based on true people. Tiana is based on Chef Leah Chase. Mulan is based on an ancient Chinese folk story called the Ballad of Mulan. Jasmine is loosely based on Princess Badroulbadour. Ariel however is based off of the title character of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, a story in which her race is never explicitly identified. People are convincing themselves that by casting a Black woman as Ariel it is  “not true” to the original story. They argue that if Tiana were to be cast with a white woman in a live action adaptation, people would also have protested. What they don’t understand is that they are proving the point they are actively trying to oppose. Tiana was based off of a Black role model, therefore changing her race would take away representation from an already underrepresented group: the Black community. 

Another, simply stupid and funny, argument I have discovered on Tiktok is that Ariel being Black is just not “scientifically accurate”. To be frank, it’s literally a story about a mermaid. There’s a Jamaican crab that sings and a seagull that gives knick-knacks obscure names. Not to mention, this argument is just wrong from an actual scientific standpoint. It is just an excuse people are using to be racist. 

Lastly, perhaps the cutest part of this story is the incredibly positive effect it is having on young Black girls. Many POC mothers on Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok have taken the opportunity to record their daughters reacting to the teaser trailer. Seeing the pure excitement and amazement on these little girls’ faces is truly incredible to watch. As they see someone, not animated but a true human being, on their screen for the first time representing them and being a role model for them, they light up. These young girls turn to their mothers and say things like “She’s brown like me!”, “I think she’s brown.”, “Brown Ariel is cute”, and more happy and exciting messages. One of these mother’s wrote in her caption: ““Do you understand how it feels for our babies to see themselves in the fairy tales that the world said wasn’t made for them. Say what you want and complain all you want … I hear nothing over the joy and excitement that this little girl has over seeing a person that represent[s] her”. Her caption encapsulates it all beautifully. To complain and attempt to take representation away from a child is just cruel. Representation matters, end of story.

**This opinion article reflects the voice of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Viking Times as a whole. Like most news outlets, The Viking Times is a non-partisan media platform.***