The Importance of Diversity in Media: Halle Bailey in ‘The Little Mermaid’

The Importance of Diversity in Media: Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

Keira Welch '25, Writer

Recently, Disney released the trailer for its live-action adaptation of the Little Mermaid. The remake is set to come out on May 26, 2023, starring Halle Bailey, a black American actress, as Princess Ariel. Audiences’ positive reactions to the trailer tell the great possibility of success from the remake of the classic and display the importance of the diversification of well-known characters in popular media. However, Halle Bailey and the movie itself have faced much backlash from the public, tied to racism. The negative and racist reactions to the trailer attempt to overshadow the promising casting and Disney magic the movie is bringing to the big screen next May. 

Halle Bailey is an amazing and beautiful black American actress and singer. Performing as Princess Ariel will be her biggest role yet and will allow her to demonstrate her acting and musical talents. The decision to cast Bailey as the Little Mermaid will not only broaden the actress’ horizons but Disney’s in terms of diversifying casts and characters. Disney lacks black and minority leading characters, specifically in its collection of princesses. Princess Tiana is currently the only black Disney Princess. Additionally, The Princess and the Frog did not properly do justice to its first and only black princess, having her spend the majority of the movie as a frog and not showcasing her natural skin color. This new live-action adaption of the Little Mermaid will hopefully do better and connect with more black and minority viewers. The trailer for the movie has already started to do this. When the trailer was released, there was a surge on social media for black parents to share the reaction of their Disney-loving children who were getting to see one of their favorite princesses, who resembled themselves, for the first time. These videos were adorable and showcased the importance of diversification in popular media. Halle Baily staring as Ariel allows for a wider audience to connect to the character and feel more included in the magic of Disney. Diversification in media can give young minority viewers more self-assurance and a better sense of belonging.

Unfortunately, critics of the movie have already found a way to perpetuate hate toward the project and its leading actress. After the announcement that a black actress would be playing Princess Ariel, a train of hate and racism was developed on social media. Haters have come out and said that they will not watch the movie due to the casting and will not accept that the Little Mermaid can possess a non-white skin tone. The hashtag #NotMyAriel began trending when the casting of the movie was first released, and again when the trailer came out. Others try to argue that their criticism of a black actress playing Ariel is not tied to racism, but the need for realism in the movie. They claim, due to the fact that Ariel is living under the sea, she would possess a fair skin tone. This is a far-fetched excuse to perpetuate hate on the internet, especially due to the fact that The Little Mermaid is a fictitious story about a mythological creature. Whether these critics believe they have a just reason or not, they are perpetuating negativity and hate towards a children’s movie, made for no other reason than to bring joy and imagination to children. The cruelty targeted at Halle Bailey is also incredibly toxic and harmful to an actress who is simply giving her best performance and allowing more minority audiences to connect with the story. It is sad and strange how a big part of society has reacted to the recreation of a lovable Disney classic, but the film will hopefully not be overshadowed by this negativity and will have a heartwarming impact on its audience through its story and casting.