So by now, anyone who is on Twitter (and possibly other social media I dare not touch) is aware of this whole kerfuffle over the newest Disney live action remake, which happens to be The Little Mermaid. It has been announced that Ariel will be played by an actress who is NOT Halle Berry (her name is Halle Bailey) but IS a person of color.
There's a whole rejoicing wave from some parts of twitter, a whole decrying wave from another part of twitter, and general war (as always) on who is racist and who isn't when discussing this.
Before I make any point about this, I wish to make my position clear so you're aware where I stand on the particular matter:
Personally, I don't mind nor care about this particular casting choice. I am not interested in seeing the live action remake either, just like I have not seen any of them of my own choice yet (mainly because I really cringed watching the couple that I did see). If the remake was a 2D or 3D animation like the image I've posted for this article, I'd probably give it a watch at some point. The biggest reason it's a ‘meh’ for me, is because I've already seen this movie.
I'm not someone that can easily (or at all) be spoiled about a new movie but you can bet I'm not interested in watching the same EXACT story that goes through the same EXACT scenes with the same EXACT plot devices and is just a little more tech-savvy.
I'll gladly and happily watch new iterations of the same plot but that is an entirely different type of remake. Which brings me to the point I want to make.
I am convinced that if Disney didn't remake The Little Mermaid with just a new color palette but everything else held constant, people would feel far less controversial about it. Why does it need to be Ariel, Ursula, Sebastian and Triton? Are they the only royalty in the seven seas? Are we going on the premise that there's a range of races and innumerable cultures on dry land but just one in the entirety of the oceans?
Give us an all black (or super colorful, fish and sea mammals do tend to have a wild color scheme) merpeople cast, set in some place in the oceans we haven't been before, and give them the same plot, but spin it differently. Make bold cultural choices inspired from actual cultures people of color have built (inspire audiences to get to know them, too!), make the plot progress in different ways in order to get to the same stages, and create something fresh and new, which will still be a Little Mermaid story.
As it is now, it feels more like white folk's forced hand-me-downs, where the plot will move in a white-people manner, the culture will be white people based and only the actors will be black. I don't much care for it, but if I were in the position of a person of color I'd be more frustrated than triumphant. And I've been there- when they made Hercules, I went to see at least a respectful approach towards Greek heritage, culture and history/mythology and instead I got a Las Vegas travesty that had nothing to do with me and didn't feel anything like my culture. I remember being really disappointed and frustrated and frankly, pissed. Even though I do like some songs in there. (okay I liked all the songs in there)
One of the points I'm trying to make is that simply changing the race is a superficial and disingenuous choice to make, and it looks just as bad and phony when you get white people in POC roles as it does on the reverse (look no further than the Last Airbender live action remake…).
The second point I'm trying to make is that instead of rehashing the same old food, the menu should expand. In each story there is world building to make, new places and horizons to cross and a whole new richness to tap into if only you put just a tiny bit of thought to it. Even when using the same plot, you can get such rich and diverse outcomes (just look at what Pixar is doing).
New additions to pop culture with more diversity shouldn't be so uninspired, as if people of color have nothing to bring to the table except their skin tint and so we pull that exact skin over the same stories created by the white/western folk as if that's the only thing there is. It shouldn't make me uninterested to watch it, but excited and intrigued. Do it like The Last Airbender (the original). Not like its live action version.
Give diversity depth, give it life. Right now it's just shallow and dead and sounds suspiciously like pandering to the trends of the times, and not to actual needs of social groups out there.
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 6, 2019
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