Little Mermaid casting of Ariel sparks backlash

FLINT (WJRT) (07/09/19) - It's the 30th Anniversary of Disney's "The Little Mermaid."

The live-action remake is set to begin filming in early 2020, but the film is already making a splash.

Disney has a new princess, and her name is Halle Bailey. She's a Grammy nominated actress and singer, performs in a sister duo, and even signed on Beyonce's record label.

Even with all that to her name, there's still some backlash. Many turned to social media to voice their concerns about not looking like the character in the 1989 cartoon.

"It's perfect to get more diversity in these because every past actress for Disney movies have always been white, and so we need to get more points of view more people can relate to and just more diversity all over," Keaton High, a Grand Blanc resident, said.

Even the Little Mermaid's original lead Jodi Benson defended the decision. She says the most important thing is to tell the story and the spirit of the Ariel is what really matters. Some say to do that, it means stepping outside the box.

"We're accustomed to having certain elements of talent, individuals, looks. Do something different. We get tired of the same old thing. Hey, let's have fun with that camera. Have fun with the movie. Have fun with that character," Kevin Scott, a Flint resident, said.

David Luke is the Director of the Intercultural Center at U of M Flint. He says the media has a history of portraying people of color in a negative light, which can have a real impact. He suspects Disney is intentionally creating a buzz to gain publicity, but those results are still important.

"Regardless of the motive, if it's getting more people of color on screen and not in stereotypical roles, but in a diverse range of roles, then that's good. We want anyone to be able to be represented, all of the different aspects of peoples' identities to be able to be represented as complex as humans are," Luke said.

The release date for the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is still unknown, but one thing is for sure. According to his Twitter, Flint's own Terry Crews seems to be campaigning for the role of King Triton.

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