#NotMyAriel trends against Disney's black Ariel in US, fans vary that it may hurt box office prospects
The black Ariel receives racism emphasizes the significance of challenging the decolonizing society's perception of role models for the next generation.
Disney's highly anticipated film, "The Little Mermaid," generated a range of responses from viewers. While some enjoyed the experience, many were left unimpressed. The movie has achieved significant financial success, grossing over $347 million worldwide, surpassing its production budget of $250 million, but can it become a success? Fans are doubtful, considering the backlash it the United States.
Following the release of Disney's teaser for “The Little Mermaid”, the internet has been buzzing with racist remarks, targeting the portrayal of Ariel, a fictional mermaid, as a Black character. The hashtag #notmyariel has gained significant traction on Twitter. Not only has the teaser faced racist backlash, but it has also accumulated over 1.5 million dislikes on YouTube. Some trolls went as far as sharing an edited version of the teaser, featuring a white individual instead of Halle Bailey, whom they labeled as a "woke actress." The trolls are persistently focused on highlighting Ariel's racial background and contend that she should not be depicted as a Black character.
Pseudo-racist comments have surfaced in response to the teasers. Matt Walsh, Daily Wire host, stated, "From a scientific perspective, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean”. After receiving backlash from critics he hides behind the veil of logic and science.
In a segment of The Daily Show, host Trevor Noah featured a news broadcast that highlighted online complaints regarding the casting of Black actress Halle Bailey in the film. Expressing his disbelief, Noah exclaimed “Really, people — we’re doing this again?”
It is not uncommon to witness racist reactions when a person of color is chosen for a role traditionally associated with white characters. The response to Halle Bailey's casting as Ariel came as no surprise, as she expressed that as a Black individual, such backlash is expected and no longer shocking. The audience's attachment to cultural properties like Disney classics stems from their reinforcement of the US national narrative, which often portrays white characters as the sole heroes in a predominantly white world.
These classic stories serve a greater purpose than mere Reminiscence, they contribute to the myth-building of the United States. The hate campaign has expanded its reach beyond the United States, making its way to social media platforms in China and South Korea. These platforms were deluged with negativity and unverified reviews, as well as a widespread outcry regarding the casting of a Black actress for the role of Ariel.
The controversy which has spread to China and South Korea demonstrates not only the global presence of anti-Black sentiments but also how deeply the US's racial discourse permeates its cultural products, regardless of the location. Although Disney films are distinctly American, Chinese audiences expressed dissatisfaction because the image of the mermaid princess from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales holds a significant place in their hearts. Accepting the new casting requires a leap of imagination. The movie's performance in China has been underwhelming, grossing only $3.6 million in its first 10 days, making it the least successful among Disney's live-action adaptations. Similarly, it is struggling in South Korea, where it has earned $4.4 million as of June 4th.
Even if these remakes offer no other outcome, being flexible in the racial representation of the cast allows both older and younger audiences to reimagine the appearance of cultural icons. While representation is crucial, it is also important to separate the concept of canon from whiteness and strive for decolonizing society's perception of role models for the next generation.