In the new Little Mermaid, black girls and mothers see themselves

Precious Avery remembers how rare it was to see black characters on TV growing up, so she started recording while her 3-year-old Emery absorbed the trailer for the new “Little Mermaid.”

As the turtles swim across the reef, an image of a mermaid appears, then black actress and singer Halle Bailey is revealed as Ariel. “I think it’s Brown,” Emery said with a smile. “Brown Ariel!”

Emery said she loves Billy’s long hair and mermaid tail. He reminds her of swimming lessons and how she trains to hold her breath underwater. You know all the Disney princesses and want to live in a castle someday.

But her mother sees something bigger. The 33-year-old said that seeing black characters on TV always made her “feel good,” and now her daughter is enjoying the experience.

Black parents across the country are arresting their daughters as they respond to a new Disney trailer. Videos of kids happily screaming, dancing, shedding tears or declaring, “She’s brown like me” has spreadgarnered millions of views and achieved a marketing boom for Disney.

Parents say the videos highlight the importance of children seeing people who look like themselves in movies and TV shows. But for some black mothers, the moment was powerful in another way, allowing them to relive part of their childhood through a new lens.

Billy is the latest iteration of the fictional mermaid, replacing the red-haired animation from the 1989 Disney movie. The original underwater rebel princess had enormous blue eyes and wore a purple bikini made of seashells. Instead of legs, it had a green fishtail. For Billy, “Seeing the reactions of these little kids makes me so emotional,” she wrote in one of her Instagram posts. “Thank you all for your unwavering support.”

The live-action movie “The Little Mermaid,” due out in May 2023, won’t be Disney’s first movie with a black princess. Princess Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog” made history as the first black princess from Disney in 2009, and the 1997 remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein “Cinderella”, in which singer Brandi Norwood took on the titular role, began broadcasting on Disney Plus Finally general.

Parents will take to TikTok to share videos of their little girls’ reactions to Halle Bailey, who will play Ariel in The Little Mermaid, released May 2023. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Dariana Fleming, 26, recalls how important it was to see Cinderella played by a black woman as a child. Inspired by the videos of black girls reacting to the “Little Mermaid” teaser, she decided to make her own. Her daughters Rylie, 2, and McKenzie, 4, smiled as they watched the first few seconds of the trailer. Their smiles turned into gasps and laughter when Billy appeared on the screen.

Riley was surprised. Mackenzie says she was touched that Ariel’s hair feared her father. The video clip documenting their response to the new Black Ariel on TikTok has been viewed over two million times. “For me, they didn’t really have to grow up, so it’s nice to have that representation for their generation to see,” Fleming said.

Ashley Potts, 26, says she doesn’t talk about her skin tone with her 5-year-old daughter, London, but was clearly shocked to see Ariel look like her. London has already loved The Little Mermaid, and they have an ever-growing collection of mermaid dolls, including the precious Disneyland Ariel doll she got for her birthday.

While watching the trailer, she referred to the mermaid princess as many times as her mother recorded, but as soon as the little girl saw Ariel’s face, she fell silent. “It was a natural reaction to her,” Potts said. “I wanted to cry.”

“It’s so surreal that the mermaid I grew up with would grow up with my children in a completely different way,” said Darianne Bell, a 30-year-old mother of five. In a video, which Bill posted on her TikTok account, Zafay, 3, suddenly stopped playing as soon as she heard Billy sing “Part of Your World.” Her back is to her mother, and Zaphae appears to be intrigued by Billy’s on-screen image.

The outpouring of feedback from young black girls was a huge marketing boost for the film. But these feelings of joy and awe were not universal. The announcement of Bailey’s selection in 2019 was met with some backlash. Some critics on Twitter have used the hashtags #NotMyAriel and #NotMyMermaid # to say that the person chosen to play Ariel should have been white, like the Danish author of the story and in the original animation.

Many of her fans have used the same Twitter hashtags, along with #MyAriel, to defend Billy. Note that mermaids are mythical creatures appeared In legends and folk tales around the world, including the African diaspora. The Disney Freeform Network also supported the Bailey system Social media With an “open letter to the poor, unhappy souls.”

Disney Network defends casting black actress in remake of classic movie

Billy isn’t the only actor of color who gets harassed for playing characters that were originally cast by white actors or in predominantly white movie franchises. John Boyega faced so much racial abuse from fans when he was cast as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 that he told SiriusXM he wasn’t interested in returning to the Star Wars franchise. Leslie Jones and Kelly Marie Trang received similar hate For their roles in the reboots of “Ghostbusters” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” respectively.

Kayla Storey, associate professor in the Departments of African Studies and Women’s Studies, Gender, and Gender at the University of Louisville, said that although Disney has included more diverse characters such as Princess Tiana in recent years, the changes have been long overdue.

Storey said that historically shows with white actors were presented as appropriate for all audiences, while films with black actors and directors were aimed only at blacks. However, she said that showing more colorful characters in TV and movies is more a reflection of what the world looks like.

What sets Ariel in the new “Little Mermaid” apart from some of Disney’s other non-white heroes, like Pocahontas, is that “the core of her story will not necessarily be to simultaneously dismantle her racial identity,” She told the story.

For Devin Coulson, 33, sharing Disney movies with her 3-year-old daughter Chloe has always been a complete moment and a chance to relive her childhood. “I feel like I can get a glimpse of what my mom felt when I found so much joy in the Disney movies,” she says.

But Chloe’s reaction to the new “Little Mermaid” trailer was special. In the video, Khloe fixed her gaze on the screen, and her eyes seemed to overflow with tears. “do you cry?” Colson asked Chloe, who immediately denied it. “Oh, sweet girl,” said her mother.

Adelia Chiakol, 31, said she also felt as if she had gone back to her childhood after watching the video of “The Little Mermaid” with her 9-year-old daughter Ava, who told her mother she was a school celebrity after the video of her reaction, in which she smiles and covers her mouth in shock. Upon seeing the new Ariel, he posted on TikTok.

Sheakul said that because she did not see herself reflected in the characters she grew up, she simply had to imagine. But in the comments to the viral TikTok video, she realized how interactive videos like her daughter’s allowed many white women to understand how much they took for granted to see themselves in white princesses and other characters.

That dynamic will change with the next generation, Chiakol said. “I kind of decided in my head that I was a princess,” she said. “Actually you see she’s a princess.”


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