Parents around the world have been sharing footage of the moment their children see Halle Bailey emerge as the first black Ariel in the teaser trailer for Disney’s new live-action The Little Mermaid.
“She’s like me!”
The teaser was short, but its effect was anything but as young black girls finally saw themselves represented as one of the all-time classic Disney princesses.
The videos, which have been viewed millions of times, have been met with an outpouring of support for Halle Bailey as the lead role.
“People have been sending these reactions to me all weekend and I’m in truly in awe,” the actress wrote on Twitter.
“This means the world to me.”
Bailey, best known as one half of the Chloe x Halle singing duo, is only the second black woman to play a Disney princess — Anika Noni Rose voiced Tiana in The Princess and the Frog.
Director Rob Marshall said he “knew immediately” she was his Ariel — but not everyone agreed. It didn’t take long for people to point out the differences between her and the cartoon character’s white skin and bright red hair.
Simone Amelia Jordan, director of special projects at Media Diversity Australia, said critics had better “strap on their seatbelts”.
“The Little Mermaid, like all Disney princesses, is a fantasy. She’s a fairytale. If, in 2022, grown adults are taking issue with actors of all hues portraying make-believe characters, they better strap on their seatbelts. We’re only getting started.
“I’d love to ask these critics, tell me what colour skin the mermaids you’ve met have?”
Why it matters for many people
Mrs Jordan said her daughter, who is of Lebanese, Greek-Cypriot and African-American heritage, responded similarly to those “beautiful, joyful faces” when she viewed the trailer.
“Watching Leila make an instant connection with Halle Bailey as The Little Mermaid reminds me of Princess Jasmine’s impact on me,” she said.
“Despite being problematic by today’s standards, I felt seen as a girl of Middle Eastern descent when Aladdin came out in 1992.”
“Diversity Arts Australia’s Shifting The Balance Report, published in 2019, noted that over half of Australia’s screen and radio organisations had no First Nations or culturally and linguistically diverse leaders,” said Mrs Jordan.
“Change begins at the top, and until our local film and TV industries reflect audiences better, limited progress will continue to be made.”
This article was first published on ABC News, 14 Sept 2022