Analysis: Why ‘The Little Mermaid’ Racist Arguments Don’t Hold Up


By now, we know it’s not uncommon to see racist responses whenever a person of color is cast in a role considered “traditionally” white. While there are plenty of legitimate reasons to dislike a movie, these critics often hide their discomfort behind other flimsy arguments, claiming historical or cultural accuracy or, above all, science.

Here are some real arguments people have made to protest the casting choice. The facts prove that they just don’t hold water.

The original story of “The Little Mermaid” was written by Hans Christian Andersen and first published in 1837. If we are to give any dignity to this argument, according to the text, Ariel and the rest of her mermaid family come of “far in the ocean”. (literally the first lines of the story) at the “bottom of the sea”. So not Denmark or anywhere near it.

If the critics are really concerned about staying true to the original story, we shouldn’t gloss over the original ending where the mermaid is tasked with killing her prince, but throws down the knife in despair and dissolves into sea foam. in place. Not to mention that, while the 1989 Disney version has Prince Eric with bright blue peepers, Anderson specifically described the prince as having “charcoal black eyes” and “raven hair.” (Also “The Little Mermaid,” which doesn’t even have a name in the original story, isn’t real.)

Claim: Mermaids live under the sea, so they don’t have dark skin

“From a scientific point of view, it doesn’t make much sense to have someone with darker skin living at the bottom of the ocean.” So says far-right pundit Matt Walsh, who opined on the casting of ‘Little Mermaid’ on ‘The Matt Walsh Show’. He claims to have framed the comment as a joke, as he goes on to say that “not only should the Little Mermaid be pale, she should actually be translucent”. However, the context of her comment is still racially charged, and it still implies that pale-skinned is closer to a “scientific” mermaid than dark-skinned.
Again, if we’re going to take an academic look at these pointless bits of speech, not all abyssal creatures pale. Not all underwater creatures are pale. Additionally, since mermaids also get close enough to the surface to see other humans, if you want to examine it scientifically mermaids would likely have a specific type of pigmentation that would allow for both deep sea and water existence. a little deep. We also know that centuries ago sailors often confused one particular animal with a mermaid: the manatee, which is not pale. (Also, “The Little Mermaid” isn’t real.)

Claim: Mermaids are a European mythological figure and therefore Ariel should be white

Numerous posts on Twitter have appeared with people trying to argue European folklore, or even Homerian epics like “The Odyssey”, have a sort of monopoly on the idea of ​​mermaids. In fact, it’s fascinating how many different cultures throughout history have come up with parallel folk themes. Humanoid creatures that live in water are part of countless mythologies around the world.
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The folklore of East Asia and Oceania is replete with stories of undersea kingdoms and merpeople both good and evil, from the Magindara in parts of the Philippines to the story of the Indian princess Suriratna or Hwang -ok that reached South Korea. Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in the classic “Arabian Nights” collection, which dates back over a thousand years, present several tales of human creatures living in the sea. In parts of mainland Africa and among the African diaspora, folklore describing water spirits, often in the form of beautiful women, is common. According to Shona mythology in Zimbabwe, “njuzu” are mermaids who occupy lakes or rivers.

(Also, not all Europeans are white. Also, “The Little Mermaid” isn’t real.)

Claim: To make Ariel Black is to ruin childhood and change the character

On message boards and comment sections on the internet, people wonder if a new dark-skinned Ariel somehow denies or erases the classic 1989 version.
Disney’s 1989 “The Little Mermaid” is still available to watch, own and share. The animated character of Ariel is part of Disney’s highly profitable “Disney Princess” franchise and her name and likeness are valuable and heavily trademarked Disney properties. Ariel with red hair and fair skin is here to stay.
Far from ruining childhood, many fans believe doing a different iteration of Ariel will only increase the magic of Disney. Just look at the sweet reactions from young black children and the praise from Disney icons like Jodi Benson, the voice of the original Ariel.
More importantly, the remake of a film does not erase the existence of the previous films: Mr. Darcy from 1999 and Mr. Darcy from 2005 live in harmony with all the other characters of the more than 300 film remakes “Pride and Prejudice “. Pennywise is different with each “It” iteration, just like Frankenstein’s monster. The “Cinderella” story, which predates the famous Brothers Grimm version, seems to have a different remake every year. A notable version, 1997’s “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella”, featured a racially diverse cast that included singer Brandy as the first black Cinderella and Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother. It aired on television as part of “Wonderful World of Disney”.

Although Disney produced a very famous iteration of “The Little Mermaid,” it’s not the first, only, or universally definitive work. No one owns the concept of mermaids or what they look like. An animated white teenage girl with red hair isn’t the only version of “The Little Mermaid” to exist.

Moreover – and this is very important – “The Little Mermaid” is not real.