Well, Disney’s getting woke again. Last time it was letting people with tattoos (mutilants) pretend to be princesses (my personal ick). Now they’re letting modern identity politics soil the timeless stories we know and love.
I grew up with The Little Mermaid (“with” here meaning “adjacent to” — the titular mermaid, Ariel, is a girl, and I was too busy watching Monster Truck Smackdowns and Bikini Football to fit empathizing with foreign chromosomes into my viewing schedule). I couldn’t tell you the minutiae of the plot, but I have the gist of it: Ariel, a white mermaid, is condemned by her despotic monarch of a father to live underwater despite herself yearning for a better life among the enterprising European colonialists she spies on from beneath the waves. Against her father’s misguided interests, Ariel saves up her money and visits a local naturopath who agrees to give her the ability to survive outside of the water in exchange for her voice. I don’t need to tell you that I see this as an undeniable win-win — a hot (white) girl with no skills, no connections, and she can’t nag me for coming home at 3 a.m. smelling like floor beer? Sign me up!
It’s the perfect story with the perfect characters. Disney had a home run on their hands. And then they fucked it up. Let’s break it down. If you’re like me and you don’t see race (I got trampled by seventeen runners at the 2021 Twin Cities Marathon; I couldn’t tell there was a race going on at all), then you didn’t even notice that I mentioned that Ariel is white. It’s a small detail, but a critical one. It defines Ariel’s character (she collects odd foreign artifacts and doesn’t give a shit what they were used for). But now, in the upcoming remake of the classic film, Disney’s gone and made her Black.
Look, it’s not that I have anything against Black people — some of my best friends know Black people. African Americans have a rich and growing cinema culture. But they can’t be mermaids. Again, it’s not about race, it’s about science. Animals that live that deep in the ocean tend to have light-colored flesh in order to help them be seen or some shit. I don’t know, I heard someone say that and I really liked how it didn’t challenge the opinions I’d already built up in my head. If you’re going to point out that Ariel lives in a magical world or that an animal that spends its whole life underwater should probably look more like a dolphin than a human anyway, don’t bother. Ursula will pay for her sins in hell and I’m a freak who will try anything once.
That’s not my only point. Another one: I think Ariel (canonically a child) is hot. And my perception of human female hotness is driven by my unique childhood upbringing (eleven hours a day in front of a CRT TV while my parents went door-to-door fighting the neighbors). Anything that deviates from my conception of aesthetic attractiveness is not only icky, but entirely unacceptable. I stopped eating at Hardee’s when they discontinued their booby commercials and I’m not above applying the same logic to an animated children’s film.
So, if it’s not clear yet, Disney: you lost me. I will not be seeing your bastardization of The Little Mermaid, instead, I will be trying my absolute hardest to hype the shit out of your film for people who aren’t flirting with the frayed edges of the Incel spectrum while doing nothing to decrease its performance for anyone who had any chance of going to see it. In short: there is nothing you can do, you’ve lost a sale you never had. Now I know what you’re asking: “what can we do to prevent such a thing from happening in the future?” Good question. I’m not going to take the bait and tell you to keep out Black characters. I’m not a racist. All I’m saying is let Ariel be Ariel, and let Uncle Remus be Uncle Remus.
If that’s not clear enough, I’ll make it clearer: don’t you dare make a single one of the seven dwarves Black. I know that’s a big ask — I’m sure you already have the woke police in your ear barking about how a rate of 100% whiteness is a bad look in 2022, but it’s time they learned to not get their way for once: the seven dwarves simply are white. They live in a mine and see the sun one hour a year. If representation is so important to these people, they should understand that I feel represented by the seven dwarves. If you make any one of those dwarves not bear a passing resemblance to me (short, defined by a single personality trait), it’s over. The whole thing’s tainted.
Do the right thing, Disney. You have 72 hours. Or however long it takes to make a live action Snow White movie. I’ll be waiting.