Although the announcement was meant to be a monumental occasion for Bailey for numerous reasons, such as the “grown-ish” alum making her big screen debut and being the first woman of color to star in a Disney live-action remake, the celebration didn’t last long.
Immediately following the news, Bailey was met with racial comments online. The hashtag #notmyariel began trending because some individuals felt that the studio should have cast an actress that physically resembled the animated character. In the 1989 film, Ariel was white with red hair and blue eyes.
On Aug. 10, during an interview with Variety, Bailey revealed that one reason she overcame the backlash was because of her grandparents’ encouraging words and their experience with discrimination.
She told the publication, “It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you.'”
In addition to her grandparents’ advice, Bailey also talked about why representation within the Black community is important, especially in shows and films. The 22-year-old said, “What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything. Things that seem so small to everyone else it’s so big to us.”
As Bailey’s remarks made its rounds on social media blogs, fans’ views regarding the situation were split.
Some people didn’t understand why there was any backlash. At the same time, other individuals brought up how production studios should create original characters that are Black instead of replacing white roles.
“If they have a problem with a black woman playing the little mermaid then they don’t have to watch it it’s that simple but go off sis ! Black excellence is real!”
“Why are they so mad? Seriously it doesn’t matter at all if anything this is a good thing, too bad people can’t stand change that has nothing to do with them.”
“They just big mad that a beautiful young black actress is playing a Disney princess race shouldn’t be an issue.”
“What I don’t like is y’all are making white princesses black like how Marvel does random characters instead of actually creating more black princesses. Tiana is the only one.”
“Can we just get our OWN NEW BLACK characters, shows and movies please.”
“I would have been more content with a new movie about a mermaid not just changing its characters skin color to make the black brown community happy.”
“The Little Mermaid” live-action reboot is set to hit theaters in May 2023.