The Fourth of July seemed like as good a time as any for non-Black people to remind the world of how racist people are across the globe, and especially in America. And that’s precisely what happened into the holiday that celebrates the country’s birthday (as determined by the colonizers who stole the land from Native Americans).
As word spread that there would be a remake of “The Little Mermaid,” fans of the original Disney movie rejoiced — that is, until they learned that it would be starring a Black actress. If you listened closely, a collective sigh of white angst could be heard when it was confirmed that Halle Bailey would play the Disney princess in the reboot to the original animated film from 1989.
Bailey called the casting a “dream come true” before social media tried to turn the announcement into a nightmare for her as the hashtag #NotMyAriel became a top trending topic on Thursday. The pushback on Twitter followed a random Chinese news outlet trying to reduce Bailey to “a colored actress” in a tweet.
The timing of the ugly episode on social media was fitting, as racism on the Fourth of July is just about as American as can be.
Activist Brittany Packnett seemed to sum it all up quite nicely when she took to Twitter to compare the outrage over Bailey’s casting to religious faith.
The people pushing the arguably racist #NotMyAriel hashtag were kindly reminded by other Twitter users of the silence when Academy Award-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal was cast as a Persian.
Disney was slammed last year for casting a “Eurocentric,” lighter-skinned version of Tiana in “Wreck It Ralph 2” after the original darker-skinned character first made her appearance on film in 2009’s “The Princess and The Frog.” Tiana is the same character that Disney was accused of using to sell watermelon candy back in 2012. Perhaps it was the combination of those two instances of negative PR that compelled Disney to go with a Black actress this time around.
The uproar was reminiscent of when it was rumored that Idris Elba was being considered to be cast as James Bond, a fictional spy who has always played by white men. In that instance, a coordinated social media campaign began to make sure Elba never got a chance to order a martini “shaken, not stirred” on the big screen.
But with Bailey, the haters are too late. While production on the film reportedly wasn’t slated to start until early next year, the casting situation was a done deal, much to the chagrin of apparent “Little Mermaid” purists.
“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,” Rob Marshall, who is set to direct the movie, said in a brief statement.
Scroll down to see a sample of the mixed bag of reactions from both Black Twitter and racist white Twitter after learning of the news that “The Little Mermaid” was being remade to star a Black actress.