Ariel, AKA, The Little Mermaid is African American and people are angry. When I first saw the news on Disney’s Instagram I thought it was genius. Yes, African American little girls have Tiana to look to for validation but for me on a personal level, this validation goes deeper. See, the story goes something like this:
A little girl from Bushwick Brooklyn grew up watching things like Mr. Rogers and Disney movies. She saw a mermaid who dared to be different and saw herself as different because she thought there was more to life than the ocean. Ariel taught that same little black girl with cerebral palsy and epilepsy that being normal was overrated. Essentially, why be normal when you can be a mermaid? As selective outrage, specifically selective white outrage continues I have to ask where was this same energy when Laurence Oliver played Othello? What about Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder or Kathrine Hepburn played Jade in Dragon Seed in 1944. Please give my mom a hand for introducing me to classic movies and television. Caucasian people have been playing the roles of People of Color forever and no one seems to care. Where have you been all this time?
Why was it okay for Angelina Jolie to play an Afro-Cuban woman and an actual African American girl playing a fictitious person is a call for an uprising? Hans Christian Anderson would probably side-eye all of you so-called progressives right now if he could. Why is it that when there was a rumor that Zendaya, a biracial black woman was going to be playing Ariel, everybody was cool with it? Does blackness really have to be racially ambiguous for it to be acceptable? This is a real question.
If Ryan Gosling was picked to play Aquaman no one would have cared. Aquaman is clearly a blond white man who’s athletically built. Instead, we got Jason Momoa. Now, this is funny because he’s also a POC. Yes, he’s gorgeous but you can’t accept Aquaman as a tatted-up beefcake and then be mad about a young African American girl who looks phenotypically black playing another fictitious person. #Fightme
Blackness comes in all shades.
Diversity and disabilities come in all shades.
Being upset about this is causing a lot of people to miss the point. Little girls with red hair got to be validated for years and so did little girls in wheelchairs or with other disabilities. Now, little Black girls are getting the royal treatment and instead of complaining, you should be celebrating.
Thank you, Disney.
From one Mermaid to another.