Earlier this week, Disney released a trailer for the upcoming live action remake of their 1989 animated film “The Little Mermaid.” Disney’s decision to cast Halle Bailey as Ariel has been a topic of ongoing conversation, with many praising Disney for casting a Black actress in the leading role.
However, some have voiced their concern with the casting, arguing that Disney is pandering to demands for diversity in film and thereby violating the historical accuracy of mermaids, a fictitious species that has appeared in the folklore of a variety of cultures in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
For instance, conservative commentator Matt Walsh expressed sympathy for someone who wrote into his program referring to Bailey’s casting as “White erasure.”
“If we all agreed that race in films and TV shows, especially fictional stories, don’t matter, and we’re going to take a kind of ‘colorblind’ casting approach, and, you know, it doesn’t matter as long as the actor is good—if we could all agree on that, then I’d be onboard,” Walsh said. “That’s basically what it was for many years, what it was back in the ‘90s.”
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“But what I cannot abide by is the double standard thing where we say…‘Race in casting only matters for certain races and not for others,’” Walsh went on to say.
Arguing for what he believed to be scientific accuracy, Walsh said, “Also, by the way, with ‘The Little Mermaid,’ can we also just mention that from a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean. I mean, if anything, not only should the little mermaid be pale, she should actually be translucent.”
“If you look at deep sea creatures, they’re like translucent. They have no kind of pigmentation whatsoever, and they’re just like these horrifying—they look like skeletons floating around in the ocean,” Walsh continued. “That’s what the little mermaid should look like. She should be totally pale and skeletal, where you can see her skull through her face. And that would actually be a version of ‘The Little Mermaid’ that I would watch.”
In addition to comments made by conservative pundits and media figures, entire communities appear to be forming around opposition to Bailey’s casting as Ariel. On Facebook, a group called “Christians Against The Little Mermaid (Boycott Halle Bailey)” has formed around advocacy against the actress.
At the time of this article, the group has approximately 9.5 thousand members.
A group admin who goes by the username Wade Wilson has pinned a number of posts to the top of the group’s page, which include posts arguing for why Ariel should be white, an image of a digitally altered still from the movie’s trailer that “fixed” Ariel by making her white, and a photoshopped image of Ryan Gosling portraying Black Panther.
In the community guidelines for the group, users are told that if “you feel the need to act racist, keep it to a happy medium.”