On September 12th, Disney released a teaser for the live action The Little Mermaid featuring Halle Bailey as Ariel. However, this was faced with immediate racist backlash people on the internet claiming that Ariel’s hair is not red enough, and simply not accepting Bailey’s portrayal of Ariel due to Disney’s original 1989 animated character being white.
This is not the first time that Bailey has received backlash due to this role; when the casting announced that she would be playing Ariel in 2019, Bailey faced the same racism that is reemerging with the release of the trailer. The criticism for this trailer has manifested in many ways with one twitter user using A.I. to make Bailey visibly white and labeling it for educational purposes, while other people have argued that Ariel could not be a person of colour due to her living in the “deep sea” according to The Guardian.
However, despite these racist reactions to the trailer, it has not taken away the joy for POC children, many of whom have been excited to have another princess that look like them. The internet, especially TikTok, was flooded with young girls reacting to trailer excited and overjoyed to have more princesses that look like them. These new representations of POC in media are essential in breaking down barriers and are source of inspiration. They provide new role models for children and expand out of stereotypes that have previously been promoted by Hollywood.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the casting of POC has received racist backlash in the past month. The new Lord of the Rings series, Rings of Power, and Game of Thrones series, The House of Dragon, have both received racist criticism over the addition of people of colour into the shows according to MSNBC.
With similar criticisms that were met with The Little Mermaid, many have claimed that people of colour do not exist in these fictional worlds, thereby revealing the inherent racism that can be found within the genre of fantasy and its fans. Despite many of these POC actors becoming a mermaid, an elf, or riding a dragon, these fantasies do not have space for diversity for some fans of these medias.