Students weigh in on new “The Little Mermaid” controversy

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Screengrab from: "The Little Mermaid" trailer.

The new live action remake of The Little Mermaid showcases a black female lead (Halle Bailey). Social media has seen positive and negative attention since the trailer.

Elly Herrick, Features Reporter

On Sept. 9, Disney released a trailer for their new live action remake of “The Little Mermaid” showcasing black female lead Halle Bailey as Ariel. This trailer has stirred up positive and negative attention on social media since its release.

Fourth-year Winona State University student, Jessica Weis, spoke about her view on the trailer.

“My initial reaction to the trailer was that I was so happy for black kids, especially black girls to have representation in the media,” Weis said. “It was so amazing to see the reaction videos of little black girls with their faces light up with happiness and for them to get their proper representation just as I did as a child.”

Videos of black children watching the new trailer have been going viral on TikTok due to their excited and shocked reactions. Many comments on those videos are relatively positive and are about how heartwarming and important it is for black youth to be represented in the media.

“Representation is so important, kids need role models in their everyday lives,” Weis said. “Representation allows for children to reimagine what the world could be and see themselves in the real world.”

In 2019, it was announced that 22 year-old R&B singer and actress, Halle Bailey would play Ariel. The film was to be released in 2021, but was pushed back due to COVID-19.

First-year student Emily Sowers had a similar view on the trailer and was shocked to see negative comments about it.

“I, as a white person, don’t really have any sort of changed perception on a movie based on whether it has representation or not,” Sowers said. “Because this is a Disney movie targeted at children, it’s important for children to grow up in an environment that fosters representation of many different races, ethnicities and walks of life to become more accepting to those differences.”

As of Oct. 2 the trailer posted on YouTube currently has 1.2 million likes and 3 million dislikes. While there is usually backlash for live action remakes from fans of the original movies, some viewers are upset that Ariel is being portrayed by a black actress instead of a white actress. 

“It’s ridiculous that the media attention that this movie has gotten is negative because of the lead being black,” Sowers said. “Having a black woman play Ariel is a good step from whitewashing all our princesses like we used to.”

The negative comments seemed to start on twitter with the trending hashtag, “#NotmyAriel”. Despite the abundance of hate, Bailey remains positive. The voice actor that originally voiced Ariel, Jodi Benson, has commented on the situation and has shown support and praise for Bailey.

Fourth-year student Dia Fau stressed that despite negative comments, representation in all types of media is important.

“Representation has always mattered in any form of media. Not just racially but for anything that is underrepresented like gender and disabilities,” Fau said. “If you’re not seeing yourself being represented then it makes you feel like you don’t matter, like you’re not being seen and heard and no one deserves to feel that way.” 

Despite negative and racist remarks on the trailer, many people are still excited for the film to come out on May 26, 2023.

“I know as a little girl I would’ve had the same reaction,” Fau said. “As an adult all I can say is ‘about time.’”