I had taken an undisclosed hiatus and wasn’t exactly sure when I would return. I hadn’t lost the passion to write, but I needed life to beat me down and shake me up a little to renew my perspective on things. Perhaps the bigger question is, just what would ignite my passions once again? The appointment of Rishi Sunak as UK Prime Minister? The cost-of-living crisis? The death of the Queen? Global warfare?
The live-action, updated remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
I’m not the blogger who wants to ride the wave of pop culture, so by the time this post eventually sees the light of day, this trending hot topic will become lukewarm; but even if you’re not a fan of fairy tales, Disney remakes or identity politics, I genuinely believe I can offer a unique perspective that hasn’t been presented thus far… at least not within mainstream media.
Disney released a trailer of its updated, live-action reimagining of the classic tale The Little Mermaid resulting in a very strange, nonsensical online backlash, simply because Disney decided to update a fictional story, with a non-human character to fit in with modern sensibilities.
I don’t mean to insult the inteligencia of my casual audience, but in case you didn’t know, the original story was written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson who also penned fairy tale classics like The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea and The Emperor’s New Clothes to name a few. In 1836, Anderson wrote The Little Mermaid which detailed an adolescent mermaid who, after saving a human prince, yearns to be with him and makes a deal with the sea witch to exchange her shimmering tail for human legs. In the original tale, not only does the sea witch cut out the mermaid’s tongue, but once she gets a pair of fabulous Tina Turner-esque legs, each step is an excruciatingly painful one.
The gamble doesn’t quite pay off, and despite the mermaids sacrifice, the prince falls in love with another anyway. The mermaid’s sisters try to salvage the situation by making a deal with the sea witch to save her life, by offering their hair for an enchanted knife that the mermaid must plunge into the heart of the prince, however, the mermaid simply can’t carry out such a grotesque act and is eventually reduced to sea foam and dies.
Some speak of a lack of respect for the source material, yet I don’t recall any Dutch people taking to the streets (or to Twitter) protesting an American entrainment company had hijacked a Dutch fairy tale and edited the story to suit its audience. No Dutch person was outraged that Ariel was voiced by American-born Jodi Benson or that Sabastian the crab sang songs infused with a Caribbean, calypso flavour that wasn’t traditional Dutch levenslied music.
Let’s not forget Disney themselves covered this hallowed ground when they produced the 2019 television special called The Little Mermaid Live, where sea-witch Ursula was played by Queen Latifah and the character of Ariel was played by Hawaiian-born Auliʻi Cravalho (who also voiced Moana) however no one gave a damn about ethnicity casting in 2019, so why all the outrage now?
It would seem the main cause for concern was fair skin was traded for brown skin, and for all those who do not like the visual change, it’s a sad shame the expression of that disappointment is labelled as racist. Let me be clear…to judge a whole movie, that has yet to be released on a 1:24 second film clip is foolish, but racist?
I’m not so sure.
“How can a short, blonde actor with the rough face of a professional boxer and a penchant for playing villains, killers, cranks and cads pull of the role of a tall, dark, handsome and suave secret agent?”
You might recall when Daniel Craig was first given the role of 007? Fans were enraged that he wasn’t handsome enough and were so distressed a website was set up called DanielCraigIsNotBond.com. You can find similar irrationally, passionate sentiments on casting decisions including Hugh Jackman being cast as Wolverine, Ben Affleck cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman and even the late, great Heath Ledger cast as the Joker. But media outlets did the thing media outlets love to do in order to gain attention and use the first opportunity to put simplified, bite-sized labels on things. One headline from the Guardian read…
“We are all losers in the ‘woke v racist’ Little Mermaid culture war”
Culture war? Between who? Humans and mer-folk? As if anyone who has an opinion on a film, can only engage on a battlefield of opposing opinions. The mainstream media tends to seek out issues of race that feed an insatiable beast..need further proof? Some obsessive comic book fans were outraged over the casting of Jason Momoa as blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aquaman, but did that gain any mainstream traction? Nah! Because not only does that story not quite squeeze into the black/white/race narrative, Momoa is simply too rugged and good-looking.
Like me, you can absolutely love the casting of Halle Bailey and not be woke, you can be outraged by the casting decision and not be racist because human beings tend to be far more nuanced and complex. Being “White” or “Black” isn’t just one thing, you can’t be mad at Disney for updating the 1989 animated version when the 1989 animated version did the same thing with the written source material.
But I am no innocent…
I decided to write this post because I’m guilty of engaging in pointless social media “debates” on this very issue and arguing with online strangers, whom I don’t know and will never meet. I have learned social media isn’t really the best place for discourse on anything, but perhaps we should adopt the same qualities of curiosity the little mermaid had toward the human world. A desire to explore a new realm, sitting in a physical space, with actual people which allows the senses to actively participate and collaborate…and just maybe you will discover you can freely disagree on any given topic and still walk away with respect for the other.
Thank you for making this post part of your world (sorry…I couldn’t resist!)
Until next time.
I really, really wish that people would learn to express their thoughts and even disagree with each other without resorting to name calling. And even more, I wish we didn’t allow the media to divide every single issue into one of two sides. Thank you so much for this post! It is a breath of fresh air with its honesty and common sense. Welcome back to the blog world!
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Thank you Ann, your kind words genuinely mean a lot to me. I couldn’t agree more, let’s hope that common sense begins to shine through… eventually. 😉
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