Why The Fuss About Halle Bailey Being Cast as Ariel The Little Mermaid?

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Halle Bailey to play Ariel the little Mermaid

Why The Fuss About Halle Bailey Being Cast as Ariel The Little Mermaid?

What makes a good movie is not just the storyline but, the characters and who plays each role and the overall production. In fact,  it is a combination of different factors. There will always be divergent views on such matters, and that is why there has been an upsurge in arguments lately on the much-anticipated scheduled live-action remake of the fairytale “The Little Mermaid”. And this time, the focus of the argument is locked on the story’s main character, the little mermaid herself, Ariel being played by Halle Bailey 

It is disheartening that some people somewhere are discrediting what a young girl – through hard work & perseverance – has achieved so far not just for herself, her family but her community as well – trying to rubbish her positives just because of her skin colour? It’s really sad, and that’s undeniably racism!

History of Mermaids: Are Mermaids originally ‘White’?

For people in Zimbabwe they call it “Mondao”, while in South Africa it is referred to as “Kaaiman” – whichever way you choose to label it in your local dialect, there is still a common belief that it is a myth after all. That a mermaid is a myth – that’s what many people perceive across the many regions of the world because there has been no real confirmation of its existence till date, though there have been scarce reports from supposed eye-witnesses recalling encounters with the special creature. Mermaids are creatures that dominantly live underwater, with the upper part of their body all human but the lower part from beneath the stomach fully covered in full flesh of a fish. 

Dating back to over two centuries (about 1000B.C.), the existence of mermaid – the river goddess – was first reported in a territory known as “Assyria” which combines part-areas of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The story revealed that the goddess named “Atargatis” had to turn herself into a mermaid after feeling ashamed of a sad incident when she mistakenly killed her human lover. Ever since, typical stories around a mermaid have been about subtleness, love, and despair. While many parts of Europe, Asia, and other continents of the world believe that mermaids are kind & soft-hearted, many African nations perceive that the river goddess attracts chaos and that it causes more harm than good. 

Does Ariel the Little Mermaid have a race?

Out of all the curiosities, some sort of fairytale for the kids was created & tagged “The Little Mermaid” by a Danish author Hans Christian Andersen who originally captured the story of a sea creature that relatively craves all things good about life’s values while having to contend with living underwater. And interestingly there have been quite a number of exciting animated flicks of “The Little Mermaid” that has made the franchise a successful one. The first animated movie of the franchise was produced in 1989 whereas the second instalment of the animation series was made in 2000. The lead mermaid character Ariel is known to be the fourth in the hierarchy of the famous “Disney Princesses” and she’s the only Disney princess who is non-human.

Jodi Benson(left) Halle Bailey (right)

Now foremost film production company Walt Disney is gearing up for an unprecedented live-action remake of the animation that will offer fans & viewers a rare presentation of fulfilling drama from underwater onto the land. Though details are still sketchy at the moment, Rob Marshall is directing, the film is produced by John DeLuca, Marc Platt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and David Magee (“Mary Poppins Returns”) wrote the script. The proposed movie is scheduled to begin production in early 2020. However recent uproar has been about its lineup of major casts already confirmed, specifically the choice of casting a “black” personality to play the “redhead” character of “Ariel” – the little mermaid, with teenage sensation Halle Bailey confirmed for the role via official Disney twitter page (@DisneyStudios) on July 3 2019.

Disney Studios shared via twitter: “Just Announced: Halle Bailey has been cast in the upcoming live-action reimagining The Little Mermaid”, accompanied by a photo of Halle Bailey.

And Halle Bailey herself expressed her joy via her official Twitter page (@ChloexHalle) – “Dream come true…” accompanied by an image of Ariel from the animated series.

Question: What has skin colour got to do with it?

One would be quick to ask the question – why so much drama over that particular role of “Ariel”? Those criticizing the decision to select a black actress (Halle Bailey) for Ariel’s character argue that it would “confuse” the true root of Ariel whose character is believed to be Danish by origin, thus such “black person cannot be Danish by racial status!” However, a prominent actress who had been voicing the role of Ariel in almost all of the fairytale series since about three (3) decades ago, Jodi Benson has given her thumbs-up to the decision of casting teenage black actress Halle Bailey as the new little mermaid character.

Jodi Benson recently at an event stressed her reason for supporting the choice: “The most important thing is to tell the story. And we have, as a family, we have raised our children, and for ourselves, that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside. I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters,” she continued. “What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts,” Benson said, per Comic Book.

Why not Halle?

Chloe Bailey (left and Halle Bailey (right).

Versatile talent Halle Bailey (19),  didn’t just spring onto the big stage overnight, she’s been having a rising profile especially through her relatively young career as a music artiste where she is half part of a 2-girl R&B group tagged “ChloexHalle” with her 21-year-old sister Chloe Bailey. Together recently, they both performed at the 2019 Super Bowl pre-game show and were nominated for two Grammys this year, 2019 for “Best New Artist” and “Best Urban Contemporary Album”. As well, the sisters have connections with Disney already – their song “Warrior” was on the soundtrack for Ava DuVernay’s 2018 Disney film ‘A Wrinkle in Time’.

Minus acting or singing, Halle Bailey seems a cute carefree personality who simply loves to follow whatever wherever her heart leads hence she’s often found love & contentment. In an interview with TIME magazine last year she revealed that her family moved from Atlanta to LA “on the dream of living out what we want to do.” “We knew that being out here was definitely better for the music scene,” she said.

In the same interview, her sister Chloe said,  “From 10 and eight we just wrote our own songs, and that’s how we learned. Ever since we were little girls, our dad instilled in us the importance of not having to rely on anyone and having a do-it-yourself attitude.”

Besides the negative critics, Halle had been receiving congratulatory messages, and words of encouragement too, within and outside the realms of Hollywood since her official confirmation by Disney. And coincidentally Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry (with same first name) was one of the first set of people to congratulate Halle Bailey on the remarkable feat. She wrote via her official Twitter page (@HalleBerry) – “In case you needed a reminder… Halles get it DONE. Congratulations @chloexhalle on this amazing opportunity. We can’t wait to see what you do! #TheLittleMermaid #HalleBailey”

Racism has no cure: Racists will have to suck up their own bitterness.

It is disheartening that some people somewhere are discrediting what a young girl – through hard work & perseverance – has achieved so far not just for herself, her family but her community as well – trying to rubbish her positives just because of her skin colour? It’s really sad, and that’s undeniably racism! Despite the continued efforts of campaigns against any form of racism by international organizations like the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU) – to mention but a few – this ‘weed’ just keeps raising its ugly head at random – but I believe more local groups & communities should get involved and more surely needs to done In-terms of more effective awareness & sensitization towards building a vibrant society with enormous collective development devoid of social, political, religious or ethnic status.

We’ve all be here before but this is 2019, people!

Notably, there have been some other celebrities who had in the past faced negative comments based on alternative racial roles: In 2017 black actress Zendaya had to contend with harsh words when news filtered online that she was rumoured to play the “white” female character “Mary Jane” who has been ‘Peter Parker’s” longtime love interest in the movie “Spider-Man: Homecoming” – eventually she didn’t assume the role but featured as another character “Michelle” as one of Peter Parker’s college mates. And last year 2018 witnessed a huge backlash against American actress Scarlett Johansson who played a Japanese character “Major Kusanagi” in the live-action Japanese anime remake “Ghost in the Shell” while many Asians accused Hollywood of “white-washing” – using ‘white’ actors/actresses to play roles originally black or Asian characters.

Maybe, knowledge could be the only cure for racism. Haters perhaps can find a cure finally.

Nonetheless, some words of advice for the haters – nobody says you can’t criticize, but do it based on objective thoughts, not mere sentiments or bias. Like it or not, Halle Bailey has got her role locked-down and the much anticipated live-action flick “The Little Mermaid” is sure now going to be even more exciting to watch, every bit of it, trust me! Looking forward to it already.

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