Singer Halle Bailey has been cast as Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
While many are pleased with the decision, the choice has also drawn a fair amount of criticism.
Some have decried the casting of Bailey, who is African-American, as a ‘P.C stunt. Others think the choice destroys some of the most iconic elements of Ariel’s character.
Many of these detractors claim that their displeasure with the casting has little to do with Bailey’s race, but it is difficult not to see it this way.
Here are a few defences to the most common arguments against Halle Bailey’s casting as Ariel.
Ariel can’t be black, because she’s Danish.
One of the most prevalent arguments against Bailey’s casting is that, supposedly, the character is supposed to be Danish. This argument comes from the fact that the fairytale on which The Little Mermaid is based was written by a Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen was also known for writing The Snow Queen, which inspired the smash-hit Frozen.
However, the nationality of a character’s creator doesn’t have to match the nationality of the character. In Ariel’s case, it definitely doesn’t.
Ariel is not Danish. She is not American, British, or Australian. She is not bound to any human country, because she is a mermaid. Ariel lives in the ocean, in the fictional city of Atlantica.
Casting Halle Bailey destroys ‘iconic’ elements of Ariel’s character
The lost iconic element which most of Bailey’s detractors bring up is Ariel’s red hair. However, red is a very rare natural hair colour. This makes it unlikely that red hair was a pre-requisite for Disney when auditioning actresses to play Ariel.
Most actresses would have to dye their hair to achieve anything close to Ariel’s red. There is nothing to stop Halle Bailey from dying her hair, if that is the way the production chooses to go.
As for the other iconic elements of Ariel, such as her voice, and her tail? Bailey can definitely sing, which probably helped get her the role in the first place. Ariel’s tail, for which animators created a brand new color, is a matter for the remake’s special effects artists to work out.
The Little Mermaid is a fairytale
Perhaps the strongest rebuttal to any argument against Halle Bailey’s casting is that The Little Mermaid is a fairytale.
Bailey will be playing a mythical creature. Mermaids are not real.
Any real world logic, like race or natural hair colors, do not apply to this story. It takes place in a world of fantasy, where anything is possible.
We should all wait, and judge Bailey the same way we would any other casting decision- on her performance.
The Little Mermaid will begin filming in April next year.