It always amazes me how people can find something to be outraged about; and by people, I specifically mean white people. The latest cause of outrage: the casting choice for the role of Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, set to begin filming next year. In a statement made by the film’s producer Rob Marshall, it was announced that Halle Bailey, ½ of the songbird sister duo ChloexHalle, will play the iconic redhead.
“After an extensive search, 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," Marshall said on his decision.
Halle Bailey naturally stuns in red; an illustration of Halle as Ariel by artist Hayden Williams
While the news was met with overall praise and excitement from fans and Hollywood heavyweights alike, within a matter of hours thousands of “I’m not racist, but…” tweets spewed from the four corners of the web as trolls voiced their disgust over the choice using the hashtag #NotMyAriel. There’s even several petitions against the film and it hasn’t even gone into production yet! I could go on all day about the overt racism and ridiculousness behind the hashtag to give a good read, but I don’t want to waste my energy on that. Instead, I’d rather talk about all the reasons why casting Halle makes PERFECT sense and what we might expect in this new version of the story.
She’s Got the Range:
Now let’s look at this objectively for a moment. Halle has proven herself to be quite the young powerhouse vocalist, and Ariel is a singing role for sure. Just listen to any of ChloexHalle’s early YouTube covers or their debut album The Kids Are Alright to see how stellar her chops are. Beyoncé herself signed the sisters as the first artists on her management imprint (insert Tiffany Pollard gif), so there’s no questioning her talent. As far as acting goes, you can find her delivering sass and side eyes every week in her breakout role as Skylar Forster in Freeform's Grown-ish alongside her sister. Sweet as she was, Ariel had her feisty moments in the original film and Halle is sure to bring her own unique dose deep-sea shade to the role.
She’s Got the Look:
I think we can all agree Ariel needed to chill when it came to falling head over heels...I mean fins, for Prince Eric at just 16. How else could we explain giving up your livelihood, family and voice for a man who doesn't even remember your face?! So it might not come as a shock that the mermaid in the original fairytale is 15 years old while Ariel is 16 in Disney's version. At 19 years old, Halle is a little older and will probably be closer to 20 or 21 when filming wraps, but can believably play a couple years younger (thanks to that melanin). I mean look at Bianca Lawson; she's been doing it for YEARS! On the other end of that, Halle’s age also gives the writers a chance to mature Ariel'd character and further develop her story, which would be interesting to see. The love interest in Prince Eric will still be there but they may approach it differently.
Fan art of Halle in true mermaid finery: shimmering emerald tail, sunkissed glow, and a crown of flaming auburn locs. Let’s hope Disney follows this lead.
It's Just A Fairytale Ya'll:
Finally, let’s not get distracted from the fact that Ariel, along with the kingdom of Atlantica and it’s inhabitants, is a completely fictional place filled with mythical creatures. This has been pointed out before but it needs restating; reverse racism doesn’t work in this situation. The reason a black person can play Ariel or any other role in this story is because the story is a myth and doesn’t center around a particular race or culture, unlike those of Tiana, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Jasmine. Even though the version of the story as we know it was written by Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author, Disney never gives a specific location for Atlantica; though some speculate that it might be a Danish colony somewhere in the Caribbean which would account for Sebastian’s accent and pay homage to Andersen’s Danish roots. Regardless, myths of mermaids have been told in literally EVERY ancient culture including African/Caribbean, Asian, Native American & European for thousands of years.
Honestly, debating the race of the actress playing a fictional, mythical creature is honestly just a distraction from the fact that W-2s come out in 6 months. Besides, there are more important questions that need answers at this time such as are we getting another epic performance of "Under The Sea" and will Sebastian keep his iconic (if not inaccurate) accent? Also, do we get to see her mom Queen Athena make an appearance as well. Oh, and for those that are particularly pissed about a black woman playing Ariel, did you forget her six sisters Attina, Alana, Adella, Aquata, Arista, Andrina and mother Queen Athena need casting too. ☺