Why The Souls Behind #NotMyAriel Are Poor, Unfortunate (And Racist)

July 9, 2019

The fact people honestly tweeted #NotMyAriel highlights a racist issue with our media. 

If you’re a human person with a Wi-Fi signal, chances are you’ve seen the backlash regarding the decision to cast a woman of color as Ariel in the live-action remake of ‘The Little Mermaid’.

Twitter has been bursting with ‘concern’ for the preservation of a certain cartoon archetype and just in case you were wondering, yes – it’s racist.

Earlier this week, Freeform Media announced that Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel in their upcoming remake of the classic Disney film and the internet had a lot to say about it.

This casting decision is an absolute dream and a step towards diversifying the media we consume. Not only is Bailey aggressively talented, but she also has the voice of an angel and is one million percent deserving of the role.

We should have spent this week celebrating an inspirational young woman who is pushing the boundaries and fighting for a better future for women of color.

Unfortunately, internet hate has proven itself to be louder than celebration, with many using the #NotMyAriel tag to share their opinions.

Tweets like this have been popping up all week…

I was about to throw my phone in the ocean and give up on humanity before I came across this little treasure that restored (just a little) of my faith in people.

Basically, the argument is that Disney has chosen political correctness over maintaining the image of a white, redheaded mermaid.

Trolls using the #NotMyAriel tag are claiming that having an Ariel of color will ruin their childhood, but there’s a common crutch being used to shield against the (obvious) racism.

People continuously refer to Bailey’s skin color and the fact that her hair isn’t red, as though red-heads have suffered the same kind of trouble with representation as people of color.

This isn’t racist, according to the trolls, because judging someone based on hair color isn’t racist. But the thing about the red-head gene is that it is almost exclusive to people with white skin. If this was really about hair color, someone would have had the sense to bring up the fact that hair dye and wigs exist so let’s cut the crap.

The 1989 film was a classic, beloved by thousands of kids and adults – myself included – but I’ll be the first to admit I watched the movie (and most Disney films) through the lens of white privilege. I never considered what it would be like to grow up and not see representations of women who looked like me. I was ignorant, as were so many thousands of little girls, but it’s time for us to grow up. It’s time to check our white privilege.

As humans, we are wired not to like the things we don’t understand. Often, we don’t know how to express this unease and it comes out as prejudice, hate or anger.

Anger is always the easiest emotion to amplify.

The internet is a great opportunity to share opinions and spark debate but as of late, it seems to act as a platform to facilitate unspeakable amounts of hatred and ignorance. And #NotMyAriel is just the latest case.

I understand this casting choice strays from the expected white, red-headed character we know from the animated film – but why is that such a bad thing?

This actress is dripping with talent so why is skin color keeping us from celebrating her success?

I’m afraid the answer is that we are all about eliminating racism until we can visibly see the diversification of our predominately white media. We accuse colored people of stealing away jobs from white people and assume they only get to where they are because of a diversity handout. I don’t need to explain how incorrect and damaging this assumption is.

It’s all well and good for us to claim we want equality but reactions like this prove a few things.

#NotMyAriel proves that institutionalized racism still exists and once again, Twitter has served as a platform for prejudiced people to justify their ignorance.

The massive backlash proves the most heartbreaking thing; this week, we told little girls who don’t fit into the white, red-headed archetype that they aren’t good enough to be a Disney princess. The amount of damage this debate could do to young girls of color is immeasurable.

#NotMyAriel highlights that while we are all entitled to our opinions, if those opinions were valid, we wouldn’t have to start a Twitter war to get people to listen. Logic speaks for itself and if you spend two seconds on the #NotMyAriel thread, you’ll notice a blatant lack of it.

We can’t let the anger take away from our celebration of Bailey’s success.

She’s an amazing and talented woman who is fighting an impossible war; a beacon of hope to girls everywhere. We are so lucky to have this strong and self-assured woman to look up to in the media. The diversity she will bring to the film will mean more to young girls of color than we can know as white people, and that’s not something to mess because of white nostalgia.

Featured image via unsplash.com. 

Comment: What are your thoughts on the #NotMyAriel debate?

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