Disney, a company that ran out of original ideas 25 years ago, just announced that another live-action remake of a popular cartoon is in the works. The creative trust at Disney is so bereft of creativity that now they are reduced to staging literal shot-for-shot reenactments of their films, which is a bit like a washed up band releasing a covers album of their own past hits. The latest cartoon to get this treatment is the ’90’s classic “The Little Mermaid.”
This one, like all the others, promises to be an utterly charmless and pointless retelling of a story that was told well enough the first time around, but there will be one change. Ariel, the mermaid at the center of the story, will go from white to black. An R&B singer named Halle Bailey is taking on the challenging role.
The news of this casting was greeted with mild shrugs from the vast majority of grown-ups, who are too busy paying bills to worry about which actress is portraying a fictional fish woman in a Disney film. In some quarters, the news prompted exuberant celebration, as it finally explodes the pernicious and harmful myth that all aquatic creatures are Caucasian. Now little girls of all races can dream of one day living in a coral reef and doing battle with an evil octopus who communicates her dastardly plans via spontaneous musical numbers.
Most people don’t care about any of this and some people are way too excited about it. But that’s not the story the media is telling. Google “Ariel” or “The Little Mermaid” right now and you will be greeted with dozens of articles reporting on an alleged “outrage” among “racists” who are very angry that their favorite cartoon mermaid has changed colors. #NotMyAriel was even trending on Twitter last night, with well over 100,000 people tweeting on the subject.
The problem, though, is that easily 95% of the tweets in the #NotMyAriel hashtag are from people outraged at the people who are outraged about the casting. Go look through it yourself and you will be hard pressed to find a single person who appears to be authentically angry that Ariel isn’t white. Almost everyone is angry that people are allegedly angry that Ariel isn’t white.
BET has an article declaring “Racists Are Big Mad That A Black Girl Is Playing Ariel In ‘The Little Mermaid.'” To prove that these “big mad” racists do, in fact, exist, BET provides precisely six tweets. Two of the tweets are from anonymous accounts with less than 10 followers. Two are from non-white people. Complex, The Daily Dot, and Pajiba did entire articles about one “racist” tweet from one now-suspended account. It appears that the account is a sock puppet with a stolen profile photo, which is probably why it’s suspended.
Now, I have noticed a few real people annoyed by the glaring double standard. A white cartoon character can be portrayed by a black actress but a black character could never be portrayed by a white actress. The “Aladdin” remake caught some grief because the woman playing Jasmine wasn’t Arab enough. Movies that cast straight actors to play gay characters run afoul of the woke-squad. Just imagine the outrage — real, legitimate outrage — if Amy Adams was cast as Tiana in a “Princess and the Frog” remake. Yet the people who would be sent into convulsions of fury about that are the same people who cheer when a white character is changed to black. It is not “outrage” — and it certainly isn’t racist — to point this out. The annoyance is over the hypocrisy, not the casting. Personally, I think people of any race should be able to play fictional characters of any race. It’s all imaginary, anyway. Make James Bond black and Shaft white. Make them both Chinese. Make them green with purple stripes. Who cares? It’s fiction.
“The Little Mermaid” is also fiction, and so is the outrage surrounding it. This is yet another phony “backlash” invented by people who are ideologically invested in the idea that America is a racist country where even the mermaids aren’t allowed to be black. It’s like the Starbucks cups all over again — something that provides progressives an opportunity to write scolding thinkpieces, and tweet self-righteously, and scream at a bad guy who exists only in their imagination. In the end, the outrage is about as real as a mermaid. But why should that stop the media from reporting on it?