How Halle Bailey is Revolutionizing Disney
Halle !! Bailey !! Supremacy !!
CREDIT: E! News
Breaking records (and waves) within the franchise, Disney has released the anticipated teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action “The Little Mermaid.”
In 2019, “Grownish” actress Halle Bailey was officially announced to play the iconic role of Ariel, making her the first Black woman to play a live-action Disney princess.
Despite her credentials for the role being more than enough (Beyonce’s record label literally signed her, like wtf,) Bailey has received immense backlash for reasons that can only be rooted in racism.
Audiences have expressed annoyance with the 2023 adaptation not casting a character (a FICTIONAL character, may I remind everyone) to reflect the original fair complexion of Ariel.
Here at Rowdy, we want to educate ourselves and our readers on the importance of media representation for all identities.
So, I sat down and talked to two University of Florida students who identify as people of color, asking them to explain why they think Halle Bailey playing Ariel is significant for Hollywood and our culture.
A conversation with Daesha and Jenna
19-year-old African American Daesha Holmes was nervous before watching the trailer but felt herself getting emotional when Bailey made her appearance.
For Holmes, she regards Bailey’s decision to accept the role of Ariel with immense respect.
“I was really proud of her for taking this role…I think she had to be in that mindset of like, ‘Yes, this is a great opportunity for me.’ But at the same time, she knew she was gonna get a lot of flack for it,” Holmes said.
The second-year student explained how POCs taking roles preordained by audiences to look a certain way must prepare themselves for unjustified scrutiny. Holmes said that she recently saw a picture on social media that had white-washed Bailey’s appearance to resemble the 1989 version of Ariel.
She believes the impact on young Black girls watching this version of “The Little Mermaid” will be even greater than the creation of the first Black Disney princess, Tiana.
“I think it’s even greater for kids nowadays to see that and not only it is a cartoon, but it is live. I think it’d be amazing for them.”
When asked about Bailey’s role in a franchise that has historically lacked representation, 21-year-old Jenna Abel’s statement was blunt.
“It’s long overdue,” Abel said.
As the daughter of a Black mother and a white father, Abel identifies as biracial. Growing up, Abel never realized that she was unrepresented in the television or movies she consumed. Now an adult, she understands why she never noticed the overwhelming majority of white actors and actresses.
“You don’t realize you’re not represented until you are represented. I didn’t think it was a possibility for a princess to look any different,” she said.
Similar to Abel’s opinion, Holmes can not recall being frustrated with Disney or the media for not casting more POC when she was younger.
“I never got frustrated until right now because I’m more in a mindset to understand…When I started to see Tiana and Doc McStuffins it was kinda like, ‘Oh! So, that is it. That is me. I can be shown.’ I felt like it was kind of the standard,” Holmes.
Abel explains that while she believes it is important for Black children to see themselves represented within the media, there is an additional layer of importance to Bailey’s casting.
“I feel like with Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog,” her identity was tied to her being Black. With Ariel, it’s like she’s a princess that happens to be Black, but it’s not a really important part of her story,” Abel.
“I think that is why it’s so impactful representation-wise. Because her identity isn’t centered around the fact that she’s Black.”
Allie Sinkovich is an Online Writer for Rowdy Magazine. When she's not writing, you can find in the Education Library drinking excessive amounts of Opus coffee.