We know that Disney is in the midst of remaking all their popular animated classics. We’ve already gotten The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo and Aladdin, not to mention The Lion King that’s about to hit cinemas in a couple of weeks time. Then there’s Mulan who will be marching into theatres next year and The Little Mermaid which is still in its developmental stages. Which brings us to our big news for today, which I’m sure will rub a certain portion of the internet the wrong way.
According to Variety, Chloe x Halle member Halle Bailey is ready to become a Disney princess. The up and coming R&B singer has been tapped by the House of Mouse to play Ariel in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. It’s also being reported that Bailey has been the clear front runner for this role since the very beginning. In a statement, director Rob Marshall had this to say:
“After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle 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.”
There are loads of people who are going to furiously type in the comment section: “if we shouldn’t accept white people playing roles originally written as People of Colour, then we shouldn’t put up with the opposite as well. Disney sucks!”
While that argument makes sense to a certain degree — I wouldn’t want to see an Asian Bruce Wayne, for example — it’s not exactly comparable to say, Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell. Why? Because since the birth of Hollywood, white people have dominated the industry while people of colour were/are sidelined and left in a lurch.
There was a point where the industry would much rather cast white actors and brownface them to play Asians, Africans, etc than actually hire people of that ethnicity or skin colour. Even fictional characters who are protagonists mostly resembled white people (comic book heroes, Disney princesses, you name it). The pendulum is skewed unfairly but completely in one direction that casting a black to play the lead in The Little Mermaid isn’t about robbing white people of opportunities, it’s merely about pushing the pendulum back towards the middle.