Since it was announced that black actress and singer Halle Bailey would be playing Ariel in the new live action adaptation of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” white people have wasted no time in banding together to lose their damn minds.
“Well if a black character was played by a white actor, everyone would say it was racist!”
“Why can’t they just create new original black characters and leave the white ones how they are?”
“POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS OUT OF CONTROL AND IT’S RUINING MY CHILDHOOD!!!”
These are some of the most common arguments posed by our color redacted counterparts. Of course, they’re all ridiculous and they unravel easily under any kind of scrutiny so, since I got time, I’ll get into it.
First things first: white people are now, and have always been overwhelmingly represented in every aspect of American popular culture. In TV, film and broadcasting, whiteness has always acted as the default.
And for all of white people’s talk about what they call “race pandering” – the recent push for more diversity in mainstream programming – they are and always have been, by leaps and bounds, the most pandered to racial group in the western world.
Make no mistake; the only reason Ariel was ever white in the first place is the same reason that all but 5 Disney princesses have been white and the same reason the vast majority of comic book icons (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Hulk, Captain America etc.) and classic action movie heroes are and have always been white: white audiences have always needed to see white protagonists.
Whenever some classically white character gets cast as a person of color for their TV or movie adaptations, white folks start throwing around terms like “forced diversity.”
They shouted this term from every rooftop they could find when Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm in the 2015 reboot of “The Fantastic Four”, when Anna Diop was tapped to play Starfire (who’s an alien and orange, but whatever) in the DC live adaptation of “Titans”, when John Boyega gave us our first black Stormtrooper, when the character “Miles Morales” was introduced as the new Spiderman, When Idris Elba was being rumored to play a black James Bond and now amid a darker hued black girl being tapped to play a very fictional Disney mermaid.
I wonder where all of this anti “race pandering” energy was when the lead roles in M. Night Shyamalan’s live rendition of “The Last Airbender” was cast with white kids instead of children of Asian descent or Jake Gyllenhaal playing the “Prince Of Persia”? What about when the “Gods Of Egypt” were portrayed with a near entirely white cast or in the movie “Wanted” where Angelina Jolie played the character “Fox” who, in the graphic novel the film was based on, was black and a dead ringer for Halle Berry? The same white folk with their tighty-whities all in a twist over a black Ariel were indifferent when Goku a popular anime character was portrayed by a white actor in the live action “Dragon Ball”.
Hell, I’ve heard white people fire back at the idea of actors of color playing fictional white characters by saying shit like, “Well maybe we should have Tom Cruise play MLK!” And while that may sound absolutely preposterous, the fact is Ben Afflekk did manage to score a role as real life Mexican-American CIA operative, Antonio J. Mendez in the movie “Argo” and Angelina Jolie did darken her skin and kink up her hair to play Afro-Cuban journalist Mariane Pearl.
So while there’s all this bitching and moaning about “forced diversity” can we take a second to talk about “forced whiteness?”
Because while white people like to site the “blackwashing” (yes, that’s a thing they say) of historically white characters as a racial double standard, the only real double standard is that when “race pandering” is done to appease white people, it isn’t considered “race pandering” at all; it’s considered the norm.
And so we’re left with the question, “Why not just create new stories with black characters and leave the white characters alone?” This question is disingenuous at best because it pretends that an original story featuring a brand new black mermaid would have the same chance at success as a rendering of an established, well known Disney classic. It pretends that a new black fairytale princess would likely do the same numbers and that movie studios would trample over each other to produce it. And it ignores the fact that the majority of classic characters, which are capable of producing big blockbuster remakes, are white in the first place because they all came about at a time when they had to be white.
And if you need proof that this is more than just speculation, look no further than the comic book TV and film industry. “Why not just make new black characters?” was the same question asked when Miles Morales was introduced as the new Spiderman and when there were mere rumors of a black Superman being teased.
It was just as much a bullshit question then as it is now because the fact is, there are dozens of currently existing black comic book characters with some dating as far back as the early 60s. Yet in all that time we’ve only seen three star their own feature films (Blade, Spawn and Black Panther) and only two star in their own TV series (Luke Cage and Black Lightning). It took until 2018 for us to see our first big budget blockbuster action film with a black director, writer and predominantly black cast in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, and even that character needed to be introduced in a Captain America film first. So let’s not be intellectually dishonest and pretend creating new original black characters is the answer to all our representation needs.
White actors and actresses have virtually unlimited diverse roles available to them in all film genres across the board. No other racial group can say that.
And, as far as I can tell, white people are really only mad at a black Ariel because they’ve taken limitless representation for granted.
…Oh, and because they’re racist.