General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

Can / should a Disney mermaid be black?

Asked by elbanditoroso (25815points) 1 week ago

story

Disney is doing a live action remake of The Little Mermaid, and yesterday announced that the mermaid would be played by Halle Bailey, a black actress and singer. Good for Disney.

And then the bigots came out – read the article.

Is there any reason why a fairy-tale fictional mermaid has to be of one race or another?

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70 Answers

kritiper's avatar

Considering all of the different colored half-horse, half-human depictions in Fantasia, I would say they could be any color.

JLeslie's avatar

Sure, why not? She can be any race or color. Like Whoopi Goldberg said, “she’s a cartoon.” LOL. Actually, The View girls has a lot of good answers to this. Sonny said, “the song Under The Sea” has a Jamaican beat. Meghan brought up that her “first Cinderella was the black remake of the movie.”

I think most people are just fine with The Little Mermaid being black, and it’s just a select few who would bitch about it.

I will say that I personally would prefer a direction in movies that are multi-ethnic rather than a black remake where the entire cast is black, but that’s just a personal preference. Maybe minorities prefer an entire cast, I don’t know.

chyna's avatar

Absolutely! They should be any color, race or creed that Disney wants them to be.

Yellowdog's avatar

I haven’t read the article.

The race of a Disney, or Fairy Tale character, should be i indigenous to the culture and place the folklore is from. Arendelle for instance, may have a black princess travel to the kingdom and marry but it is unlikely that she would be FROM Arendelle.

In another example,, Gandalf in Lord of the Rings might be excellent if played by a Chinese man, someone once said. Except the Lord of the Rings depicts Celtic and Norse culture. And there is a reason for that. A lot about the origin of languages, legendary creatures and various myths has its origins in their indigenous settings.

Portraying a mermaid as black in a complete fantasy world is fine. And I’m sure many Danes would insist that a Dane can be any colour. But The Little Mermaid is Danish. Its a Danish tale that involves the history of Denmark or that particular culture maybe interpolated into another kingdom.

There is plenty of room for African stories, such as The Lion King, or beautiful Polynesia,, such a Mulan, in their respective settings.

Lets keep cultures in their place and region so that we can teach more about Hans Christian Andersen and Danish stories.

In a completely fictional, fantasy world, a black mermaid is fine. without a Dane to be found. But it is out of place in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway—cultures long overdue to be portrayed in their era of romanticism.

I have no problem with black princesses, either, in European fairy tales—because royalty might have indeed had connections or ties to African cultures.

So, I’ve stated the counter-argument. Most will disagree. We are teaching about the cultures and settings the stories originated.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Yellowdog “The race of a Disney, or Fairy Tale character, should be i indigenous to the culture and place the folklore is from…”

What’s your reasoning for this maxim?

JLeslie's avatar

@Yellowdog Well, under the sea is international waters already. The tale doesn’t mention anything about being Danish I don’t think, just the author is Danish.

Many of the fairy tales told in America are from Germany, or a German story collection, we don’t insist a German or Germán-American actor play the parts.

ragingloli's avatar

You are talking about a half human, half fish fantasy creature, with mammalian hair, who can breathe both in air and water, who uses seashells to cover her inexplicably mammalian breasts, but is otherwise butt naked, but it is her skin colour that is the cause of outrage?
I wonder if she spawns roe like fish, and asks the human prince to jizz on it.

ragingloli's avatar

Frankly, her skin should be highly translucent, giving clear view on the muscles below, and bioluminescent.
She should have visible gills, webbed fingers, a big dorsal fin, several rows of shark-like teeth, and a fleshy growth on her forehead terminating in a luminous bulb to lure in prey.
The prey, of course, being humans that she lures to their doom on the high seas.

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws I have a photo of my husband that I call his Jesus photo. If you are on Facebook with me you can see it. Long black wavy hair, goatee, olive skin, and amber brown eyes. Do people still have that blond image in their mind of Jesus? Or, I wonder if that has changed now? There are some fair haired people in the Middle East, but it’s rare.

I just read the story of The Little Mernaid on Wikipedia. I didn’t realize it was such a Christian story. I thought it was a typical Disney love story with a Prince and a girl.

cookieman's avatar

I am really upset they didn’t cast an actual mermaid!! When will there be representation for the fish people, goddammitt!!

(of course it’s fine. it’s a flippin’ cartoon)

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I don’t care, don’t plan to watch it.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ugh. People are fuckin’ stupid.

Patty_Melt's avatar

There should be all sorts of fabulous colors, not the sharkboy image as described above, but glimmering white with a hint of lavender, brown with shiny gold (not orange) highlites, blue with pink striping, and so on. Let the colors be represented.

canidmajor's avatar

@Yellowdog, Anderson’s Little Mermaid was Danish. Disney’s Little Mermaid bears little to no resemblance to the original.

And maybe it’s silly for people to ascribe a bunch of political motives to the casting choice, maybe Halle Bailey just had the best audition.

Caravanfan's avatar

Only right wing racist bigoted fucks are upset about this.

Yellowdog's avatar

All good points, I think.

For a Disney movie, it doesn’t matter.

It works to have Annie as a black character—streetwise, a strong leader, a good singer, in the throes of poverty. Except she has freckles and red hair.

Would you cast Mulan and her Polynesian royalty family as an African American? I think not. What about Dracula? Well, a black Dracula would work, if you moved the story to Ethiopia or Morocco instead of the Transylvanian Alps.

If you want to cast a Shakespeare tale about betrayal set in Denmark but you want it for Africa, The Lion King fills the bill.

There has to be a rationale for these decisions.

In any case, it appears the original question is a legitimate one, so I answered it. Yet it appears to be seeking to bash those who present the position asked for by calling them right wing bigoted fucktards. With that kind of a mindset, why not just put that as the premise of the question?

Why not ask, “Are the people opposed to casting a black girl as The Little Mermaid all right-wing fucktards?”

If you don’t like the answers you ask for, don’t ask it.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Yellowdog might have a point, if for example Justin Timberlake landed the lead in a biographical film of Malcolm X. And the minute the world’s merpeople come forward to protest the casting of a landlubber as one of themselves, I will certainly sit up and pay attention!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It’s the little mermaid, not a politically, racially charged theme. It may be a little PC pandering on the part of Disney but who really cares. IMO this is an example of good diversity inclusion. Or it could just be the young lady is just the best for the part.

kritiper's avatar

In the use of CGI the character could be given another color even though the voice actress is black. They made the genie in the live action remake of Aladdin blue, so why not??

gorillapaws's avatar

@Yellowdog It’s funny you mention Shakespeare, all of his plays were performed by men. Does that mean only transgender women should be cast in those roles?

Look, I think the idea of “color-blind casting” is an interesting discussion to have. I’m undecided on the issue as there are many pros-cons that I haven’t fully parsed out in my head. As you point out, when it comes to fantasy characters, it’s a lot harder to argue the point. If “The Little Mermaid” was being produced as a strict historical interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s work, I think the point could be argued, but we’ve got talking fish, evil octopus-monsters, and a priest with an erection.

Yellowdog's avatar

As I just mentioned, In the Lion King, Shekespearian characters of Denmark were cast as African lions, so, I guess not.

But thanx for the Priestly Boner clip.

si3tech's avatar

I can’t see why a mermaid can’t be black.

elbanditoroso's avatar

In Much Ado About Nothing (1993) Denzel Washington (Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon) was cast as the half brother of Keanu Reeves (Don John), despite the racial difference.

LadyMarissa's avatar

According to @gorillapaws link, not only am I color blind…I’m also boner blind!!! I enjoyed the “storyline” WITHOUT worrying who had a boner or what color their skin was. IF you look at the pic with @gorillapaws link, Disney had already started having Ariel as black albeit a very light skinned black with a white voice. Just noticed that the link listed Ariel as Ursela who was the wicked witch if I remember right.

The original Ariel, Jodi Benson seems to say it best…

“The most important thing is to tell the story. And we have, as a family, we have raised our children, and for ourselves, that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside,” Benson said Saturday at Florida Supercon convention.

“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts. And the outside package — cause let’s face it, I’m really, really old — and so when I’m singing ‘Part of Your World,’ if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel.”

Demosthenes's avatar

I’m not a big fan of diversity for diversity’s sake, but I really don’t care about this, and I don’t think as many people care as the internet’s fake outrage machine would have you believe.

ucme's avatar

Can? Obviously
Should? Certainly

Besides, Sebastian would be flirting a lot more.

JLeslie's avatar

I actually think Halle looks like the cartoon little mermaid.

@Yellowdog When it’s historical figures like Abraham Lincoln I feel like there is a good argument for the actor casted to look like the character, but a mermaid is pure fiction obviously, so I don’t think it matters. Any fictional tale I dint think it matters. Some examples I would give are Clara in the Nutcracker, the sugar plum fairies, and any part in a ballet, can be any race or ethnicity in my opinion. Traditionally classical ballet has been very “white” and many of the stories are German or Russian. Too bad. One of the most beautiful prima ballerinas is a black girl.

Back to historical figures, of course now the show Hamilton is breaking those rules, but I still think there is argument for the actor to look like the actual person in history, it can go either way, depending on the production. In my opinion. And, i don’t mean the actor has to actually be what the character was. What i mean is, let’s say the character is an Arab Muslim, if an actor looks like the person but is actually Hispanic and Christian, I think that’s fine. People think my niece is Arab all the time. The girl is gorgeous. She’s Italian and Mexican, but the Mexican side is Middle East (Jewish) Spain and France.

seawulf575's avatar

I don’t think it matters much. I agree with @Yellowdog that the story was from Danish roots and Danes, at the time the story was written, were not typically black. They would likely not have pictured mermaids as being black either. But it’s a movie. It can be whatever the makers want it to be. How many movies have I seen that came from books I loved only to find they kept the name and that was about it? Too many times. But that doesn’t mean they are bad movies…just not what I was expecting.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Sure. If Nick Fury and Earths Green Lantern can both be black then why not a mermaid? We have Tuvok is a black Vulcan on Star Trek Voyager.

tinyfaery's avatar

Mermaid in the original story was greenish.

ragingloli's avatar

Damn Orions.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I think this is a made up issue. She looks exactly like the white one only brown. All she really needs to be is uncommonly pretty.

RocketGuy's avatar

Halle Bailey looks pretty good to me.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Has anyone else noticed that all female Disney characters look almost exactly alike, from Snow White to Arial?

ragingloli's avatar

Yeah, and do not get me started on Calibri and Helvetica.

kritiper's avatar

Yes, she can be black. As can her father and sisters and all of the other merpeople, and the prince and all of his crew…
Mess it up too much by trying to be absolutely politically correct and all children who see it will the spend the whole time watching the film wondering just what the hell is going on…

Dutchess_lll's avatar

LOL! I knew I spelled it wrong….

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III It might be made up.

I don’t think they all look alike, but generally most of them have disproportionately large eyes, which is more childlike. I think it adds to the perceived innocence and need for being protected. Supposedly, men are more attracted to women with large eyes.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Or attracted to child like women which is disturbing to me.

They have the same mouth, nose, body proportions, etc

kritiper's avatar

Large eyes have been around in American animation since the beginning. It allows the emotion and facial expressions to be more noticeable when the character only takes up a small portion of the scene.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Good point K.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III That’s right. Attracted to childlike features.

I once read women with larger eyes have higher estrogen, but I don’t know if that is correct. Implying it is a cue that the feature means better fertility.

I was reading about it because eyes far apart always make me think the mother probably drank, but men seem to find it attractive.

@kritiper I agree it helps show emotion.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Eye size is due to genetics not hormones.
FAS causes a birth defect including oddly spaced eyes. Again not related to hormones.

JLeslie's avatar

It wouldn’t be surprised at all if hormones affect eye size and how wide eyes are set, and many things about our faces.

mazingerz88's avatar

This reminded me of internet chatter months ago about Idris Elba playing James Bond.

Caravanfan's avatar

@mazingerz88 I would LOVE Idris playing James Bond.

RocketGuy's avatar

Heimdall – yes! He exudes adequate coolness.

ragingloli's avatar

If he becomes bond, they should also add some twinky bond boys.

JLeslie's avatar

This type of discourse about the casting probably only helps Disney.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Like loli, I’m waiting for the sequin adorned gay Bond following the model of ZORRO (the gay blade). That movie for me was the great sendup of our age so far.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

You didn’t think there were gay overtones to Zorro and Bond already?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Overtones aren’t the point. The point would be the BOND a talented gay writer might produce. But I recognize the overtones

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I still don’t think it’s an actual issue. As @JLeslie kind of suggested, Disney probably started the tempest for free advertising.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Do you mean “started the tempest” through casting a black woman in the role in order to drive controversy?

ragingloli's avatar

If true, it just shows how easily these snowflake racists are triggered and how much they need their lily-white safe space.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Clearly, the decision was made in the pursuit of revenue. But regardless of the motive, SOMEBODY was bound to set this silly race ball rolling in this day and age

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I honestly have not heard one single person say anything about it.

canidmajor's avatar

I have heard, in person, a number of people be offended by it.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

@stanleybmanly no. I mean that I don’t think anyone is actually complaining or protesting. No one at all. Disney is just pretending they are.

canidmajor's avatar

yes, @Dutchess_lll, some are, as I just said.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Then they are really dumb.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

“If true, it just shows how easily these snowflake racists are triggered and how much they need their lily-white safe space”

You don’t realize how correct you are. Same general fear based pampered butt mentality.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think Disney hires a black actress on purpose to create controversy. I don’t doubt there are some people annoyed by it, but I think it’s not likely a lot of people, and I think the media helps grow the controversy. I think Disney doesn’t get hurt by the controversy, they probably are helped by it.

ucme's avatar

Better not get a white horse to play Black Beauty…just sayin.

Yellowdog's avatar

Disney, Fantasy, Denmark, Andersen—yeah, some Mermaids in this universe would indeed be African American to appeal to the mosaic of today’s audiences.

Disney can have the live action version, but lets keep the old Disney animated 1989 version as the ‘racist’ version. Some of us want to keep Ariel, Rapunzel, and the Norwegian kingdom of Arendelle true to the romanticized faerie-tale Germanic and Scandinavian settings and culture.

So make the post-Millenial version for everyone but lets keep the cartoon as the ‘racist’ version.

ragingloli's avatar

I wonder if you are also upset that SnowWhite is not 7 years old like in Grimm’s original.

Yellowdog's avatar

I never said I’d object to a black girl playing Snow White, @ragingloli

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