For the Culture
Representation can be the catalyst in the career of a young artist
Just the other day I was talking to my baby sister, and she showed me a picture of Princess Tiana that she had colored. In her sweet voice she said, “Sissy, I colored Tiana like me. She looks like me."
This week Disney announced that the beautiful Halle Bailey would be playing Ariel in the new adaptation of the classic, fan favorite film, “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey plays Sky on the Freeform television series, “Grown-ish,” but she is also recognized for her beautiful voice in the singing duo ChloexHalle.
This news was neutral to some, inspiring for others who feel like their children will have another Disney princess to look up to, emotional for some who were under-represented on television/media growing up, and some felt offended (?) because the skin color of a fairytale mermaid has “ruined the (entirety) of their childhood.”
Fun Fact: Between the years of 1937 and 2009, Disney imagined and released 49 classic and loved films before releasing the Princess and the Frog- with their very first black princess.
As we all know, Disney has been re-releasing some of their famous, classic films- live action and re-imagined. Remakes and re-adaptations allow for creative boundaries to be pushed, for new narratives and lessons to be taught to new generations. "Princess and the Frog" was not originally a story about a black woman working hard to open a New Orleans restaurant. I distinctly remember reading the story in elementary school about a girl who was already a princess, and she was approached by a prince trapped in a frog's body. Aladdin becomes Sultan- even though he is severely under qualified- in the original 1982 version, but the 2019 remake showed a new narrative. We watched Princess Jasmine feel passionate about the climate of her home, make strategic political decisions, and eventually become Sultan herself. Maleficent was much more than an evil witch in the 2014 re-invention of her story, and Aurora finally got a personality and dialogue in her own film. The Little Mermaid was one of my favorite Disney films growing up, but Ariel was a 16 year old girl who sold her voice to a sea-witch for a guy she’d never exchanged words with. I can’t wait to see what updated story they’ll make for Ariel, that will inspire a new generation of young girls.
The original Little Mermaid still exists, and you can buy it everywhere, but this new casting of Ariel allows for new opportunities for a young, beautiful artist. It also allows for a wide variety of young, impressionable girls- like my baby sister- to find representation in one of the largest and influential animated films ever. There shouldn’t even be an explanation for the casting. Halle deserves the role for the sheer magnitude of her talent, and if you’re an adult with a problem with how “The Little Mermaid” is being portrayed, please re-evaluate your point of view, and ask why is it so self-centered and narrow? If you don’t believe representation is important, then it’s most likely because you have had an abundance of it growing up.