Analysis: How to respond to racist arguments against “The Little Mermaid”

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Since the disney released the first teaser for their live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” the internet was flooded with a wave of critics complaining that Ariel, the completely fictional underwater fish woman, shouldn’t be black.

Hashtags like #notmyariel (#notmyariel) are making the rounds on social media, and YouTube has hidden the dislike counter in the official video after it was bombarded with racist comments and over 1.5 million “unlikes.”

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A group of critics even shared a digitally altered version of the teaser that featured a white woman in place of the film’s star, Halle Bailey.

By now, we know that it is not uncommon to see racist responses whenever a person of color is cast in a role considered “traditionally” white.

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While there are many legitimate reasons to dislike a film, these critics often hide their discomfort behind other weak arguments, claiming historical or cultural accuracy, or even science.

Here are some arguments people have raised to protest the casting choice:

“The Little Mermaid” is a Danish story, so Ariel should be white

The original story of the “Little Mermaid” was written by Hans Christian Andersen and first published in 1837. If we consider this argument, according to the text, Ariel and the rest of her mermaid relatives are creatures from the depths of the ocean and from a very ancient period in time. So it’s not Denmark or anywhere near it.

If critics are really concerned about staying true to the original story, we shouldn’t gloss over the original ending where the mermaid is instructed to kill her prince, but throws the knife away in desperation and dissolves into sea foam.

Not to mention that while the 1989 Disney version has a Prince Eric with bright blue eyes, Anderson specifically described the prince as having “black eyes as coal” and “black hair”.

Mermaids live under the sea and therefore would not have dark skin.

“From a scientific point of view, it doesn’t make much sense to have someone with darker skin that lives at the bottom of the ocean.”

That’s what the far-right expert says Matt Walsh, who opined about the casting of “The Little Mermaid” on “The Matt Walsh Show”. He claims he framed the comment as a joke, as he goes on to say that “not only should the Little Mermaid be pale, she should actually be translucent.”

However, the context of his comment is still racially charged, and he even suggests that pale skin is closer to a “scientific” mermaid than dark skin.

Again, if we’re going to take an academic look at these unnecessary bits of speech, not all abyssal creatures are pale.

Not all underwater creatures are pale. Also, since mermaids also get close enough to the surface to see other humans, if you want to look at this scientifically, mermaids would likely have a specific type of pigmentation that allowed for both deep sea and shallow water to exist.

We also know that, centuries ago, sailors often confused one particular animal with a mermaid: the manatee, which is not pale. (Remember, “The Little Mermaid” is not real)

Mermaids are a European mythological figure and therefore Ariel should be white

Countless Twitter messages have surfaced with people trying to argue about European folklore, or even Homer epics like “The Odyssey,” which have some sort of monopoly on the idea of ​​mermaids.

In fact, it is fascinating to see how many different cultures throughout history have come to parallel folkloric themes. Humanoid creatures that inhabit water are part of numerous mythologies around the world.

East Asian and oceanic folklore is replete with stories of underwater realms and beings good and bad, from the Magindara in some regions of the Philippines to the tale of the Indian princess Suriratna or Hwang-ok who arrived in South Korea.

Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in the classic “Arabian Nights” collection, which dates back over a thousand years, feature various accounts of human creatures inhabiting the sea.

In parts of mainland Africa and among the African diaspora, folklore depicting water spirits, often in the form of beautiful women, is common. According to Shona mythology in Zimbabwe, the “njuzu” are mermaids who occupy lakes or rivers.

(Also, not all Europeans are white. And “The Little Mermaid” isn’t real.)

Making Ariel Black is Ruining Childhood and Changing Character

In forums and comment sections across the internet, people are debating whether a new dark-skinned Ariel somehow negates or erases the classic 1989 version.

Disney’s 1989 “The Little Mermaid” is still available to watch, own and share. Ariel’s animated character is part of Disney’s lucrative “Disney Princess” franchise and her name and likeness are valuable and heavily trademarked Disney properties. Red-haired, fair-skinned Ariel is here to stay.

Far from ruining childhood, many fans think that doing a different reading of Ariel will only add to Disney’s magic. Just look at the sweet reactions from black kids and the praise from Disney icons like Jodi Benson, the voice of the original Ariel.

More importantly, a movie remake doesn’t erase the existence of previous movies: Mr. Darcy from 1999 and Mr. 2005’s Darcy live in harmony with all the other characters in the nearly 300 remakes of “Pride and Prejudice”.

The “Cinderella” story, which predates even the famous Brothers Grimm version, seems to get a different remake every year.

One notable version, 1997’s “Cinderella,” featured a racially diverse cast that included singer Brandy as the first Black Cinderella and Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother. It aired on TV as part of the “Wonderful World of Disney”.

Although Disney produced a very famous retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” it is not the first, only, or universally definitive work. Nobody owns the concept of mermaids or what they look like. An animated white-and-redheaded teenager isn’t the only version of “The Little Mermaid” out there.

In addition – and this is very important – “The Little Mermaid” is not real.

Watch the trailer for “The Little Mermaid”:

Source: CNN Brasil

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