Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel in the 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid, has spoken out against those criticizing Halle Bailey’s casting in the remake of the new Disney movie.
Benson made it clear at Supercon in Florida this week that the color of the skin doesn’t matter, but the spirit of the character.
If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what controversy Disney has stirred up by casting Bailey as Ariel, buckle up. It’s about to get intense for you.
The hashtag floating around is #NotMyAriel, a play on the hashtag that was popular when President Trump was elected a few years ago, #NotMyPresident. Private Facebook groups, long heated forum discussions, and even a petition on Change.org for Disney to switch casting have all popped up.
The problem? Halle Bailey is black, and according to many on the internet, Ariel is a white mermaid and Disney has no right to change that.
Their argument has ‘roots’ in the idea that The Little Mermaid is from a Danish story, and Danish people are very white. Therefore, Ariel must be white. Many Twitter users point out that it isn’t like they cast a mermaid in the role, to begin with, so they’re already taking liberties with the story and spirit of it.
Halle Bailey, the new Ariel, is a 19-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, who first gained internet fame as part of the duo Chloe x Halle with her sister, Chloe Bailey. Their first song to go viral 5 years ago was when they covered Beyonce’s Pretty Hurts, which now has over 17 million views on YouTube. Since then, the two have landed a music deal with Columbia Records.
She and her sister are also part of the Grown-ish cast, and did the theme song for it, ‘Grown’. They were originally only signed for recurring roles, but were so good in the show they landed regular parts.
Halle says one of her major music inspirations is Billy Holiday, and that she is a huge fan of jazz music.
The OG Ariel spoke out at Supercon, a major comic con-style event, in Miami Florida this week when she was asked her thoughts on Halle’s casting.
Benson said the most important aspect to the role was being a storyteller. Ultimately it doesn’t matter your skin color, weight, dialect, or nationality. Halle being able to tell the story is what is really key to be Ariel.
She added that her heart and spirit are what really counts, not the color of her skin or hair.
The Little Mermaid isn’t the only thing Disney is reinventing. This year we’ve seen The Lion King and Dumbo, and next year fans are looking forward to Mulan, though the story is different from the original, and reports state that the cast will not be singing the classic songs that made it so popular.
We still don’t know what the story is going to be for The Little Mermaid, either – how will Ariel handle modern life, like dealing with bottled water (“Isn’t that free in the ocean?!”), cell phones, and cars, or if they will keep the original setting intact.
There’s also no word on further casting decisions of The Little Mermaid, but we’re excited to see who is going to romance Ariel on dry land, as well as who will be chosen to play Ursula. Who knows how Twitter will respond if they decide to cast someone who – gasp! – isn’t purple.