Presenter Cassandra Maria shares her thoughts on Disney’s newest live action film The Little Mermaid.
One of the most highly anticipated live action films to hit our screens this year is the Disney classic The Little Mermaid. Film fans worldwide are flocking to the cinema, not only for the stunning songs, nostalgia and to re-live the children in them (five-year-old me is EXCITED beyond belief to see this) but because this film has done something very different with the casting. Instead of hiring a white actress with bright red hair to play Ariel, to mirror the 1989 animated film, they opted for a black women with locs – that actress being Halle Bailey.
The responses to this have been mixed. Some people have criticised Disney and said this is a result of “woke” culture, wanting to be too diverse and appease the black community who are constantly asking for more representation in film. To these people I say a few things, a) a mermaid has no race and b) we SHOULD be catering to the black community in this way and take ALL opportunities to ensure the younger generation feel empowered.
We SHOULD be catering to the black community in this way and take ALL opportunities to ensure the younger generation feel empowered.
As a mixed race woman who grew up watching Disney on repeat - yes I know all thew words and yes I will sing them in the cinema. I only ever saw three Disney princesses who were not white; Pocahontas, Jasmine (from Aladdin) and Mulan. These films always had a special place in my heart. I was never able to articulate why until I got much older and realised what drew me to them was that I related to them when it came to my colour.
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Seeing women who were strong, brave and beautiful made me feel I too, could be strong, brave and beautiful. I dressed up as Pocahontas for world book days on numerous occasions because I could see myself in her, even though I’m not of native American heritage, she was a shade of brown and so was I, that was enough for me to feel empowered. That’s the power of representation and that’s why Halle playing Ariel is so important.
Seeing women who were strong, brave and beautiful made me feel I too, could be strong, brave and beautiful.
We all remember the videos of little black girls watching the trailer for the film in awe, seeing themselves and feeling worthy of being a princess. Those girls will go on to have a whole new world view because of a film like this. I had the privilege of attending the Premier of The Little Mermaid in London and asked Halle directly how she feels about being a black woman Disney princess, she said: “I’m a proud black woman and I’m happy to be here and to be able to represent all this new generation of my community is a blessing. I’m so happy to be here.”
That’s what it’s all about – the new generation and how we do things differently for them. How we ensure they’re empowered, and yes, it’d be great to have new stories made specifically for black actresses, or black princesses in this case, but taking an old classic and making it anew is refreshing. I, for one, am in support of a new black Ariel and will absolutely be singing my heart out at the cinema.