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Does ‘Little Mermaid’ Pretend Slavery Didn’t Exist While Making Halle Bailey Wear Slave Clothing? Black Activists React

Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid has been mired in controversy ever since it was announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress and singer, would play the role of Ariel, the mermaid princess who dreams of becoming human. While some fans celebrated the casting as a sign of diversity and representation, others unfairly criticized it as a betrayal of the original animated film, which depicted Ariel as a white redhead with blue eyes. Now there is new wave of criticism based on the historical context of the movie.

Black Activists Accuse ‘Little Mermaid’ Writers of Erasing Slavery From History

The new Little Mermaid movie is set in the 1800s on a fictional Caribbean Island during the height of the transatlantic slave trade that brought millions of Africans to America, and other parts of the world as forced laborers. However, the movie shows no traces of slavery or its impact on Black people and their culture. Instead, it portrays Ariel and her father, King Triton, as members of a prosperous and harmonious underwater kingdom that has no connection to the human world above.

Some black activists have called for a boycott of the film, arguing that it pretends that slavery didn’t exist and ignores the struggles and oppression of black people. They claim that the film is an insult to their ancestors and their culture, and that it perpetuates a false narrative of racial harmony. This resentment is fueled by the strange choice of attire the main character wears in some scenes.

Why is Halle Bailey Dressed Like a Slave in Little Mermaid, if Hollywood Writers Didn’t Want to Include Slavery in the Movie?

One of the main points of contention is the costume design of the film, which features Ariel wearing clothes that resemble those worn by enslaved Africans in the 1800s. For example, in one scene, Ariel wears a blue dress with a white apron and a headscarf, which is similar to what enslaved women wore on plantations. Some critics have pointed out that this is a stark contrast to the original animated film, where Ariel wore a pink dress with a corset and pearls.

Black activists have argued that this omission is not only historically inaccurate, but also disrespectful and harmful to the memory and legacy of their ancestors who suffered and resisted oppression. They have also pointed out that some scenes in the movie are especially problematic, such as when Ariel wears clothes that resemble those worn by enslaved women in plantations. To many people it’s like the producers wanted her to look like a slave in some scenes, while at the same time pretending that slavery wasn’t happening during that time period.

Why Does 'Little Mermaid' Pretend Slavery Didn't Exist While Making Halle Bailey Wear Slave Clothing?
Is Halle Bailey Wearing Slave Clothing in Little Mermaid?

The criticism from black activists adds to the growing resentment the movie is receiving from all angles, albeit for very different reasons. As aforementioned sadly the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel, who was historically a white character in past movies and fairy tales has had white activists in an uproar on social media.

While many applauded Disney for choosing a black actress to play the iconic role after years of showing no diversity in movies, others argued that it was a form of tokenism and pandering. Some white activists have expressed their anger and disappointment at the casting decision with disrespectful memes about Halle Bailey. In addition, IMDb had to change their rating system to combat large scale review bombing that was happening from people unhappy about the casting.

The controversy around The Little Mermaid is not new, as the film has faced backlash ever since it was announced in 2019. However, now that the film has been released, the debate has intensified and polarized fans and critics alike. The film has become a symbol of the ongoing tensions and conflicts over race, representation, and history in Hollywood and beyond. It’s kind of crazy how a fairy tale can invoke such strong emotions.

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