Ever since it was first announced that young actress Halle Bailey would be portraying acclaimed Disney mermaid, Ariel in the new live action Little Mermaid remake, social media and film fans have been in a divided frenzy over the character of Ariel being portrayed by an African American actress. Regardless if you are for or against the race of the character being changed from the original, the fact that this is an issue shows that society, especially here in America, has not grown away from the ignorance of the past as much as we think.
As an African American male, issues surrounding race have had a big impact on me and have played a big role in my life since forever. As a film nerd/geek I love when the entertainment industry addresses these issues in an artistic, yet entertaining manner. At the same time I am not naïve to the political agendas being pushed in a lot of the modern day filmmaking landscape. Like the rest of the entertainment industry, the world of film has always addressed social issues, including race, going all the way back to foundation. In light of the shift in the political climate over the course of the past decade, I feel that a lot of the addressing of social issues in film is not as genuine as it once was in the past.
Like I have stated before, film has always addressed social issues like race, but nowadays it seems like a lot of present day filmmakers are not addressing these issues for genuine expression of conscious storytelling, but for the sake of following trends of creating images of symbolic victory to mark off the inclusivity check boxes of social and political issues. Doing this has lowered the quality of a lot of stories, making them void of being entertaining as opposed to just coming off as preachy and vain to the audience that watches along.
One tactic that has accompanied these agendas is race-bending. Contrary to what most film fans believe, race-bending is not as simple as changing an established character’s race, but changing the character’s race to fit a racially motivated agenda. Plenty of times before has a character been race swapped without the character’s race specifically being the key reasoning why the swap happened, but nowadays “bending” of a character’s race is motivated by the sole desire to say the character is now another race as opposed to the talent of the actor and the way the story is being told having any major relevance.
Though I am not a fan of the ingenuity of these agendas being pushed, I am also not a fan of the ignorance that has been glorified in its wake. Many people who hold deep seeded ignorance and bigotry have used the anger towards Hollywood’s political agendas to let their ignorance flags fly high and what has been happening with Halle Bailey is a great example of how bad that ignorance has become. At the end of the day, Halle Bailey is a working actress who is just doing her job and trying to live her dreams as a performer. Regardless of what you do or don’t agree with, or how discontent you are with the games that Hollywood plays, do you seriously think it is justified to tell this young woman that she should not be playing this fictional character because her skin color is not the same as the original’s? Think about what message that sends to all the other little children who look like her that are watching in the distance. Those children who do not yet know anything about the world are just hearing a bunch of people lash out and say “YOU SHOULD NOT BE PLAYING THIS CHARACTER BECAUSE OF YOUR SKIN COLOR.” This is a cruel thing to teach a child, the purest hearts that we as human beings have in the world.
Many people will try to make the counter argument of “what if it was a character of color who’s race was being bended?” Well the fact at matter is Hollywood has been bending the races of African Americans and other characters of color in film and television since the beginning of cinema, both fictional and non fictional, but these facts don’t seem to matter to the one sided minds of the bigots and ignorami who have a problem with Caucasian characters being race-bended.
If you like what’s happening in Hollywood, fine and if you don’t like what’s happening in Hollywood, that’s fine too, but attacking a rising star who is just trying to live her dreams is completely wrong, no matter how you try to cut it. Halle Bailey should be able to look back on this time in her life with wonderful memories that all her dreams have come true. She should not be looking back at this time in her life with memories of people complaining about her skin color not fitting the image of what they think a fictional character should look like. Such a mindset is toxic to the human condition and is part of the reason why we still have so much division in the world.
If you think the bullying of Halle Bailey’s portrayal of Ariel is justified, ask yourself this: what if someone was saying the negative things they are saying about her to your daughter, your sister, your mother and it broke their hearts? How would that make you feel? Would it hurt you? And would you be proud to think the things you are thinking right here and now?
Everyone needs to let go and do some self reflecting, because if you endorse the bullying of Halle Bailey, then your heart carries venom, whether you know it or not. This has to stop before it leads to harder lessons the world will have to learn.
About the Creator
Hi I'm Joe Patterson. I am a writer at heart who is a big geek for film, music, and literature, which have all inspired me to be a writer. I rap, write stories both short and long, and I'm also aspiring to be an author and a filmmaker.
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