Since Disney announced its plans to remake its classic The Little Mermaid with a live-action cast, fans of the film have been wondering who would be cast as the movie’s protagonist, Ariel. Today, Variety spread the news that Ariel will be played by Halle Bailey.
Since Ariel in the original cartoon is a white, red-headed young woman, Twitter was quick to take note that having Halle portray her is a powerful step forward for black female representation in film. Although this casting decision is momentous, director and producer Robert Marshall emphasized that Halle earned the role for talent and for who she is as a person: “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance – plus a glorious singing voice – all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.” Bailey is a 19-year-old singer, famous for the R&B duo she started with her sister, Chloe x Halle, as well as her role on the sit-com Grown-ish.
Halle confirmed the news on Twitter, tweeting from the account she shares with her sister Chloe “dream come true…” With the tweet, she also shared a photo of Ariel’s iconic pose on a rock as waves crash behind her, the photo edited so that Ariel’s features are representative of Halle’s.
@BrandyLegion pointed out that the last time Disney cast a black actress as one of their live-action princesses was 22 years ago, when Brandy played Cinderella.
Matthew A. Cherry tweeted on behalf of black Twitter when he heard the news, tweeting an edited video of a group of men dancing to The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea.”
Although the immediate reaction was overwhelmingly positive, @Versacelili called attention to how the unexpected casting choice will be received by some, saying “racists are gonna be mad mad.”
Zendaya, who plays Peter Parker’s love interest MJ in Spiderman, shared her support of the casting choice, retweeting the news and writing “Yeeeeessss!! Here for thiiiissss!!” MJ, like Ariel, was originally presented as a red-headed white woman before Zendaya stepped into the role.
Germain Lussier owned up to the mental error that many of us made at least once since reading the news, writing: “I can’t be the only person who saw news that ‘Halle Bailey is The Little Mermaid’ and got very confused because my mind misspelled her last name to make it read ‘Halle Berry is The Little Mermaid,’ right?