When Disney announced its casting of Chloe x Halle singer Halle Bailey as Ariel in their live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, some internet commenters lashed out against the idea of a black woman in the role.
Some even went so far as to start a petition titled #NotMyAriel to have Disney recast the character with a white actress resembling the red-headed underwater princess from the 1989 animated film. Fed up with the comments, Disney’s cable network Freeform responded with “An open letter to the Poor, Unfortunate Souls” who found an issue with Bailey’s casting.
“Yes. The original author of The Little Mermaid was Danish. Ariel…is a mermaid. She lives in an underwater kingdom in international waters and can legit swim wherever she wants (even though that often upsets King Triton, absolute zaddy),” the post read. “But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish.”
“Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black,” the letter continued. “Ariel can sneak up to the surface at any time with her pals Scuttle and the *ahem* Jamaican crab Sebastian (sorry, Flounder!) and keep that bronze base tight. Black Danish people, and this mer-folk, can also *genetically* (!!!) have red hair.”
All of that aside, Freeform went on to remind people that the story and the character of Ariel was a work of fiction, further defending the grown-ish actress’ casting.
“But spoiler alert – bring it back to the top – the character of Ariel is a work of fiction,” the network continued. “So after all this is said and done, and you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than the INSPIRED casting that it is because she ‘doesn’t look like the cartoon one,’ oh boy, do I have some news for you…about you.”
Bailey expressed her excitement for her new role with a post on Twitter after her casting was revealed by Disney on Wednesday.
“Dream come true…,” she tweeted alongside the image of an Indian-American Ariel singing “Part of Your World” while waves crashed behind her.
“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,” the film’s director, Rob Marshall, said in a statement.