Halle Bailey Is The Little Mermaid | I’m Still Waiting for Asian Ariel. Why it’s so important to have multicultural representation in Disney films.
Halle Bailey Is The Little Mermaid | I’m Still Waiting for Asian Ariel
It’s 2019, and the world keeps on surprising me.
The timing of a precarious email hit my inbox on July 3, 2019. And normally, I would read the email subject and delete. “Halle Bailey Is Disney’s Ariel” the subject line said. Not cast. Not picked. Present term – is.
One email subject line and the world has lost it’s mind. And I’m not angry. I’m furious.
Since 1989, we’ve had a fair skinned, red haired beauty as our Disney princess. And as much as I enjoy every bit of this Disney classic animated film, I always found one thing missing when I would watch.
Back in the 80s-90s, the gross under-representation of multicultural characters in films was not only glaringly obvious to this little Korean girl. It was devastating to my childhood. What does every little child want growing up? To be able to look up to someone who “looks” like them. That’s not selfish. That’s child-like innocence.
And as I continued to grow up with TV shows and films without “me” in them, I found that my skin tone, my eye slant, my hair color, everything that I couldn’t change about my appearance – that I was considered unacceptable. Ugly. Hated. For something that I couldn’t change about myself, no matter how much I wished. (Yes, I’m sad to reveal that I used to wish to be white.)
The lack of representation on the big screen did more than just damage this little girl’s dreams of being a Disney princess. It also showed every other little child growing up that white privilege is the norm. Fair skin, blonde hair, round eyes – that is what the world considered beautiful. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle – just to name a few. And if you were a little girl that didn’t match what was out there, then go find yo-self a new dream.
“But you have Mulan.”
Sure, I had Mulan once we hit the late 90s. But how many Asian Disney princesses did I have before or after her? Exactly. And as much as I love Mulan as my Asian Disney Princess, there were so many flaws in that movie that no, I didn’t 100% see myself represented in a movie (another post for another day, folks).
Maybe, just maybe if we had a cultural norm that showed Asian princesses everywhere, I would have had a different childhood. One where racism wasn’t the norm. One where kids wouldn’t taunt me for my eye shape or my straight hair. One where yellow skin wasn’t said with a cringe.
But here we are. 2019 and Disney shocks and surprises the world with Halle Bailey casted as Ariel. Was I taken aback? Absolutely. But am I also giving Disney a standing ovation? Until my arms fall off.
It’s a multicultural Ariel, y’all. 2020 can’t come soon enough.
— Raising Whasians (@raisingwhasians) July 3, 2019
If you haven’t YouTube researched her singing or googled her background, then you’re already missing out on everything Halle Bailey is. If you’re already counting out this talented young girl as a possible Ariel, then you’re just like everyone else. Say that it’s not a racist issue. Say that it’s not about skin color. But any way that you slice and dice this one – you’re already saying so much.
You’re showing your true color. Emphasis on COLOR.
So now the world has a beautiful black haired, dark skinned woman as live-action Ariel. And while the ignorant racist folks are screaming out the #NotMyAriel hashtag (I type this with utter disgust and disappointment), I’m still waiting. In 2019, while the world is losing it’s business over a black Ariel (seriously, y’all?), I’m over here screaming where is MY Asian Ariel?
Arguing over who gets to be Ariel, we seriously are more than two steps back right now. It’s 2019. There’s a HUGE representation of little girls who will finally see themselves represented on the big screen. They will finally see the Disney princess in them. And maybe, just maybe the world will accept them as they are. As black haired, dark skinned beauties. A world with less racism? Why wouldn’t we all stand behind that?
It’s 2019, y’all. I want to see Disney characters represented in ALL different skin tones & ethnicities. I’m still waiting for my Asian Ariel. Maybe in another 25 years. But until then, simmer down.
Your judgment makes you privileged & shows your true color. Emphasis on COLOR
— Raising Whasians (@raisingwhasians) July 5, 2019
We’ve had Ariel. There are tons of little girls who have that fair skinned, red haired Ariel. And guess what? We still do today. But now, the world finally has a choice. There are little girls who will FINALLY see themselves represented as their favorite Disney Princess. And we need to NOT get in their way. It’s not about you and your selfish claim on Ariel. It’s about them – those little girls who have been patiently waiting. Maybe, just maybe there will be a new generation of empowered little girls thanks to the live-action The Little Mermaid.
It’s time to share. We’ve had 30-years of the Ariel you wanted in the spotlight. It’s time to move on. Let other little princesses have their moment to shine.
Because some of us are still waiting to see ourselves on the big screen. Some of us are still waiting for Asian Ariel. I know there’s a huge generation of little girls dying to see her. Well, maybe another 25 years Disney will surprise me again. But Halle Bailey as Ariel – she gives me hope. But until then, I will not stop advocating for more Asian representation in film. I will not stop advocating for more representation in film, period. I will not stop advocating for more little children growing up to see themselves on the big screen.
It’s more than just a movie. This is the beginning of change, acceptance and a HUGE stand in multicultural representation. And I am 100% here for it. 2020 cannot come soon enough. Halle Bailey isn’t cast as Ariel. She IS Ariel. Accept it. Embrace it. I have.
Y’all keep screaming #NotMyAriel. Halle Bailey is #TotallyMyAriel and she should be yours too.
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