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How Social Media Users Are Breaking Down The Racist Response To The Little Mermaid Teaser

How Social Media Users Are Breaking Down The Racist Response To The Little Mermaid Teaser

This past weekend, Disney dropped a teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action version of The Little Mermaid. 

While the clip is only 1 minute and 23 seconds long, it provides the perfect sneak peek at what is to come in the much-anticipated remake. 

Beginning with a short montage of Halle Bailey as Ariel as she swims through the kingdom of Atlantica and stumbles upon a shipwreck, the snippet is filled with enchanting visuals, drawing us further into the world of The Little Mermaid. Halle even teases her own version of the iconic ballad “Part of Your World.” 

Halle’s performance in the teaser has received plenty of praise online, striking a chord with young Black girls who rarely see themselves represented in mainstream media.

Many internet users have since taken to social media to share live reactions to the snippet. TikTok user @preciousavery’s video is one of many reactions that have gone viral, amassing over 4.3 million views at the time of publication. 

“When your favourite Disney princess looks like you,” the text reads as a three-year-old girl named Emery watches the clip for the first time.  

“I think she is brown,” Emery says when Ariel appears on the screen. “Brown Ariel is cute.” 

However, the response to Halle’s performance hasn’t all been positive. 

Back in 2019, Halle’s casting caused quite a stir, where many internet users found fault with the 22-year-old singer’s lack of physical likeness to the cartoon character. Of course, this argument is rooted in racism, with these critics unable to fathom the idea of a (talented) Black woman portraying Ariel. The backlash resulted in the hashtag #NotMyAriel trending, with internet users directing hate and discriminatory comments toward Halle. 

This time around, the remake received criticism for dim lighting and that it did not look like it was filmed underwater. While these may be valid complaints, some internet users saw it as undue criticism against Halle and the upcoming movie. 

Having said that, discussions about Halle’s race have been at the forefront of the discourse around the clip. Many Twitter users, such as @Sixigfrog, have taken to the platform to defend the actress’ performance and casting.  

“Ariel’s whiteness isn’t what motivates her or hinders her in any part of the story at all😭😭😭” they wrote. “White people don’t need racial representation like people of colour.”

Meanwhile, other internet users, like @jadenrbricker on TikTok, are working to undermine the assumption that Ariel should be white. 

“Off the bat, Mermaids aren’t real…they appear in folklore from Europe, Asia and Africa… which means a Mermaid could be any skin colour,” he goes on to say. “HC Andersen’s original text, which the original movie is based on, didn’t actually clarify anywhere that Ariel is white.”

The Little Mermaid hits cinemas on May 26, 2023.

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