Updated: Jul 9, 2019
With news of Freeform's "Grownish" Halle Bailey being chosen to play Ariel, it's caused a ton of mixed emotions -- and I must say, it's a bit uncomfortable.
The reaction to Disney's live action version of The Little Mermaid was pure excitement until it was announced Halle would be taking on the role of the beloved mermaid.
The hashtag #NotMyAriel had people sharing their sadness and anger that the character wasn't being played by a red-headed white person. So much so, people began to create racist Facebook pages and posts about the issue. Others argued inclusion was a great thing but it doesn't make sense for certain characters.
One person on social media went so far as to say, "Let's have Princess Tiana white since we're about diversity."
Ignorant I know.
We live in a time where diversity and inclusion is desperately needed in the industry. The lack of people of color in front and behind the cameras in prominent roles is a sad statistic. And with the backlash of a make-believe mermaid not being white, it clearly shows why this statistic lives.
Unfortunately, people reference Disney's animated version of the story as their depiction of Ariel, which is understandable, however it was never truly written in stone the color of the character's skin.
Let's backtrack a bit.
The Little Mermaid, the original story which is a darker, tale was written by Hans Christian Anderson, who lived in Denmark. The story is about a young mermaid who is willing to "give up her life in the sea and her identity as a mermaid to gain a human soul. "
Nowhere in the story was the ethnicity of the mermaid described. She is merely a mermaid.
But it did make me wonder. Is there such a thing as too much inclusion? When characters are already identified with a particular look or race, should we stick to it to keep with tradition? Or do we stray away?
I believe it all depends on the story.
If a character in a film or tv show is from a specific geographic location or the story involves the character's racial background, then yes, we should stick to it.
For example, going back to the ridiculous argument that Princess Tiana can be played by a "white" person. Well, that wouldn't work because the story is based on an African-American girl who lives in New Orleans.
Let's not forget the backlash Disney received when they were rumored to be casting a white woman to play "Mulan".
A white person, playing a Chinese girl who lives in China and goes on to fight in a Chinese war?!
Ariel, a fictional mermaid, has no racial attachment. Therefore she can be any race.
We really need to learn when to raise the inclusion card and when not too.
Disney has raised the bar with having Halle Bailey play Ariel. It's sad to even say this is an incredible moment when diversity and inclusion in the industry should have been happening in cinema since cinema began.
Before I finish, let's not forget how amazing Brandy did as Cinderella in Rodgers and Hammerstein's version of the story and her Filipino prince.
Halle Bailey can sing, is beautiful and will make a fabulous Ariel.