When the Disney studios announced that they had cast Halle Bailey in the role of Ariel, aka The Little Mermaid, for their latest live-action remake, there was a wave of reactions and most of all: criticism. Twitter hashtags #NotMyMermaid and #NotMyAriel became trending topics, based solely on Halle’s skin color supposedly not matching the role. But mermaids of color have been around long before Hans Christian Andersen’s creation of The Little Mermaid and certainly long before Disney.
Mermaids of color have existed in folklore and art, passed down from one generation to the other by word of mouth. Conceivably, multiple cultures throughout the world have stories about mermaids in their spirituality and mythology. Cultures where mermaids are goddesses and creators tend to be largely African, Polynesian, Native Hawaiian and indigenous African cultures.
In these cultures, mermaids are portrayed as sirens, water spirits and water elementals, among other unique portrayals. For example, Yemaya and Mami Wata are the most prominent water elementals in African and Caribbean folklore. Yemaya is believed to be the mother of all living beings and is worshipped in West Africa among the Yoruba and in the Caribbean. Mami Wata is the pantheon of water spirits in African and Caribbean folklore. She is often shown as an ancient goddess with both womanly and fish features.
Moreover, I think that we should support all our mersisters. Now is the time when mermaids claim agency, for example in online fan art, such as the online Monstrous Mermaids (Frankenstein Mermaids, Zombie Mermaids, Vampire Mermaids and Robot Mermaids). We need powerful mermaids who represent all of us – the mad mermaids, the fat mermaids, the trans* mermaids, the mermaids with disabilities and the mermaids of color.
I’m very happy with the casting of woman of color as a mermaid. And I am not the only one who feels this way. Against the backlash, artists – amateur and professional alike – were inspired by Disney´s decision and shared some quite magical images of Halle as Ariel on their social media. I made a selection of this beautiful black mermaid fanart, to show that Halle – just like other Geek Girls – can be anything she desires.
(in random order and just google for more eye candy)
Alice X. Zhang is a professional illustrator for Marvel and she painted this stunning work of art featuring Halle as Ariel, swimming, with red hair and a green tail.
— Alice X. Zhang (@alicexz) July 4, 2019
Another Marvel illustrator – and the author of the comic Blackbird – who drew a redhead Halle mermaid is Jen Bartel. She also added pearl ear studs and the beautiful sea flower that all Ariel fans know and love.
Instagram artist Alice X. Zhang drew Halle with dreads or braids, in the famous dinglehopper scene. I love it!
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While Instagram artist Kaiayame choose for Halle to wear the well known (and controversial) pink princess dress. I love it!
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💗🐠🌸 Do people still hate the pink dress or….? Because I kind of like it. … Edit: There were a lot of responses on this post and while many are full of love and positivity, and some are even downright wonderful, I want to be clear that I do not tolerate racism or racist comments, at all. Full stop. As of right now, I think Halle Bailey is an amazing casting choice. And if you need Ariel to be white in order to enjoy the character, you don’t actually like or care about Ariel. Because nothing about her or her story is defined by her skin tone. There is no need for this specific remake to cast someone who looks exactly like the cartoon. I understand that a lot of you googled ‘little mermaid setting?’ like 5 mins ago and are crying about the original fairy tale being set in Denmark. That’s a bullshit excuse and you know it. The 1989 version is an adaptation that has no clear setting established within the context of the movie. And if anything, it is strongly influenced by the Caribbean. On top of that, Ariel f-cking kills herself in the original. So is that what you’d like to see happen? I didn’t think so. Times change. And stories that are retold should be updated to reflect that. If you come here saying “well doesn’t this mean we can racebend ANY character??” Nope! Thanks for asking. Furthermore, if you’re whining that Disney should only ever make new characters for actors of color instead, you obviously do not understand how powerful and important it is to take an iconic role like Ariel, give it to a black actress, and say ‘This character belongs to no one, and she is just as much for you as for anyone else”. Bring on the new & beautiful Ariel. I applaud this choice, it was the right choice, and I am very excited for it. . . . #disney #disneyariel #disneyremake #thelittlemermaid #remake #myart #fanart #ariel #hallebailey #linmanuelmiranda #disneyliveaction #digitalart #artistsoninstagram #artaccount #disneyart #singer #littlemermaid #scuttle #flounder #hallebaileylittlemermaid #disneylife #disneyanimation #disneyprincesses #princessariel #chloexhallebailey
American storyboard artist Nilah Magruder shared her vision on a black Ariel with this perfect comic book like drawing of the `Part of Your World` scene, that even includes a realistic looking Flounder.
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And how about this adorably cute Halle mermaid drawn by Twitter artist Ivy (@Ivykaelinart)… isn´t she just wonderful?
Fan art like the examples about make me even more excited about the new Little Mermaid Movie. I am certain that Halle Bailey will do an amazing job as I totally agree with the judgment of director Rob Marshall, who praises Halle’s ”rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance, plus a glorious singing voice”. Oh and I am very curious who will play Ursula…
This article was originally published 4/28/20
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