We are finally getting our 2nd Black Disney Princess. A black Ariel! And this time we may actually get to see her face on the screen for more than 22 minutes (Tiana, I got you!).
When I first heard Disney was doing a live action version of The Little Mermaid I let out an exasperated sigh. Another live action remake from our childhood, can we please get a new hobby? But I’ll admit, after Aladdin, they’re bringing me back around a bit. Then, today they announced Halle Bailey as Ariel.
I read the emailed press release from my phone. “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle [Bailey] possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role,” says director Rob Marshall.
I’ll admit I didn’t recognize the name when I opened the email but as soon as I saw her picture I gasped. I turned to my husband who was laying next to me and said “Look who they cast as Ariel!”
“A young Janet Jackson?” he said. Ok, mister. You’ve got jokes!
Both of us were pleased. Actually pleased is an understatement for me. I’m THRILLED. Imagining all of the merchandise that returns when Disney does a remake. Our little girls will have little black Ariel dolls with brown skin, and you guys I’m here for it.
I distinctly remember Halloween my kindergarten year I wanted to dress up as my favorite princess: Ariel. I donned the mermaid costume, red wig and all. The stomach part was a nude color. Obviously nude isn’t the same shade for everyone. So there I was with my dark brown skin and a white midriff section. Did I care? Nope. But looking back at that now, I’m hopeful that my daughters will have more options.
Unfortunately not everyone is happy about this. Disney Family shared the announcement on Instagram this afternoon and it was met with a surprising amount of disappointed comments.
One of the top comments for instance says:
So bad disney you ruin and play like this with our childhood, if you go make an adaptation of your own movies, respect the design and ethnic origins of each character, Ariel is the princess with the unique characteristics! his red hair with its contrast of white skin and no, it is not racism, my complaint and my annoyance would be the same if when doing a live action of the princess and the frog, choose a white actress to play Tiana, it would be just as annoying.
And there are lot of comments that start “I’m not racist but…” (never a good sign) and “This diversity thing is going too far!”
I’m sorry that seeing people who don’t look like you is getting annoying. Imagine how I’VE felt my entire life! But have you seen me complaining?
First of all when has Ariel’s skin color ever been a part of the story? Oh wait, it hasn’t. Tiana is from New Orleans and in the story was put down by people because of her I quote “background.” This is not the same. Ariel is a mystical mermaid and if you ask me, the perfect Disney princess to shake things up.
I will admit the red hair is a standout feature to me and was for my daughter too.
Ariel has been one of Lil’ J’s favorite princesses (on and off, it’s hard for her to choose a favorite) for years. She dressed up as her when we went to the beach, and every time we visit Walt Disney World she’s the princess to meet. I showed her a picture of Halle Bailey and she immediately smiled. “I like her hair! She’s pretty!” She said. “Her hair is like mine. But do you think they’ll add some red braids?” Red braids or locs on Ariel really would be something. I hope it’s a consideration (and from some sneak peek stuff I’ve caught glimpses of it looks like it will be!).
Lil’ J was also concerned about her singing voice. So we did a bit of Googling and were so happy to hear Halle has the voice of an angel. Actually she sang one of our favorite songs from the movie Wrinkle in Time. We oogled at her beauty in that music video.
I’m so thankful that Disney is taking this risk and giving the world another Disney princess of color. I’m sure over the coming months (years?) leading into its release we’ll hear complaints and grumbles but I hope that there’s more support and cheers. If you want the same pale skin, red-headed mermaid from our childhood you can watch the 1989 version. I’m ready for something new.
Production is anticipated to begin in early 2020. Let the countdown begin!