Actually, I do have a problem with a black Little Mermaid

Ashley Herzog
5 min readSep 15, 2022

Here’s why.

First, let me start by saying Halle Bailey, who plays Ariel in Disney’s live action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” is drop-dead gorgeous, and any straight, red-blooded American man vehemently opposed to seeing her in a seashell bikini is a nut. But let’s see Bailey’s role in this film for what it is: she’s a young woman, barely out of her teen years, with idealized features and a Victoria’s Secret Angels figure. She looks great in a bikini. She can act, and judging by the trailer, she can certainly sing — making her the ideal candidate to play the lead role in a regressive story. Replacing a fair-skinned cartoon character with a young black woman doesn’t make the story “woke.” That’s undoubtedly what Disney wants its target audience to think — and it was a brilliant marketing strategy on their part.

In case you need a refresher, Disney’s classic animated film told the story of Ariel, a young mermaid who fervently believes the grass is greener on the other side — or in this case, on land. Sure, she wants to try out earthly delights like dancing on two feet. But, this being a Disney movie from the backlash years of the 1980s and early 1990s, her primary motive is: Some Guy. She spots Some Guy from afar and is willing to give up her own home and her own family in order to pursue him. But first, she has to give away pieces of herself, including her voice. Meanwhile, her love object, Prince Eric, doesn’t long for Ariel in particular, but any woman who has “that voice.” In fact, he readily abandons Ariel at a moment’s notice to marry some skanky chick who lures him with “that voice.” The only way Ariel can win him back is by sabotaging the wedding and stealing back her voice to regain his interest.

It’s a horrifying story, really. This movie came out when I was five, and as much as I loved swimming in the neighborhood pool and pretending I was a mermaid, I sensed something was deeply troubling about this storyline. I was relieved when Disney gave us Princess Jasmine, a princess who won’t do anything to win over Some Guy, the following year. I decided I much preferred Jasmine’s role modeling, dressing up as Jasmine for Halloween in second grade. Ariel was pretty and had a…

Ashley Herzog

New account. I’m still a professional journalist, novelist, and radio host. And Catherine’s mom.