“The Little Mermaid” teaser trailer sparks disputes regarding Halle Bailey’s role as Ariel


Trina Tang watches “The Little Mermaid” live action teaser trailer on YouTube. Photo by Nicolle Valite.

On Sept. 9, Disney released “The Little Mermaid” teaser trailer. The trailer, which featured underwater visuals and lighting effects, gained 23 million views on YouTube as of Sept. 25. The film stars Halle Bailey as the main character, Ariel.  Based on a sample of her singing and acting choices in the trailer, Bailey’s portrayal seems to align with previous vocal characteristics and character traits as the animated version.

However, not everyone agrees that Bailey should be the one to play Ariel in the upcoming live action remake. The dispute began when people said she does not look like the original Ariel in the animated movie because of her differing skin tone and lack of bright red hair.

“Halle is so pretty and her voice is amazing, but I don’t really care about who they cast as Ariel. I just want them to keep her iconic bright red hair,” Jeanna Smirnoff said.

But the main feature people were arguing over was the change in Ariel’s skin color. One side of the argument wanted to embrace the change in Ariel’s character that comes with the change in time.

“It’s impractical to think that it’s going to be exactly one to one [with the animated movie] as it’s been over a decade. The times have changed and you should expect [the characters] to change with that,” Vice President of the Black Student Union Pierceton Charles said.

However, another perspective  would prefer to keep Ariel’s original look in order to pay homage to her classic animated counterpart.

“I think it’s great that Disney is trying to include more diversity in their new media, but I also feel that as a Disney classic, it would be nice to maintain the original Ariel image,” Trina Tang said.

Some students said depending on the intent behind wanting to keep Ariel white, there is a very fine line between being racist and wanting to revisit your childhood. 

“Some people are being racist – they just don’t want a black person to be “The Little Mermaid”. If they want to relive their childhood, they can watch the original,”  Charles said.

Despite the opposing opinions, some people agree that Disney should create more original stories for people of color instead of changing an existing character with a recognizable design by remaking old animated movies.

Charles said, “It’s nice to see diversity, however it feels like an afterthought when you take an already-established princess and remake them as a person of color.”