It only took a few seconds, the time for Halle Bailey’s face to appear on the screen, for social networks to ignite. Ariel, the famous Disney mermaid, is now black. The American actress and singer appears at the very end of the trailer, unveiled in early September by the Californian company, of a live action adaptation, directed by Rob Marshall, of the 1989 cartoon. Since then, the hashtag #notmyariel carries its share of negative comments – many of them racist – which cry treason and regret the red hair, blue eyes and diaphanous skin of the fishtail princess.
On Twitter, a screenshot showing Halle Bailey’s figure bleached and altered features had plenty of time to circulate before its author’s account was suspended. Conversely, videos, accompanied by the hashtags #representationmatters or #blackgirl, have gone viral, especially on TikTok. Children, filmed by their parents, show a huge smile when they discover Disney’s new heroine. “She’s black, oh my God!” », « Yes, yes, yes », enthuses a sibling in front of the trailer.
Halle Bailey was moved by the phenomenon on Twitter. “I’m blown away” she reacted. As for the rest, the young woman of 22 years was satisfied with a ” What does not kill you makes you stronger “. Known with her sister for their R’n’B duet Chloe × Halle and for their role in the series Grown-ish, she already had to face an outpouring of hatred when, in 2019, it was announced that she would play Ariel. In August, she explained to the magazine variety the importance of the support of his grandparents. “It was inspiring and beautiful to hear their words of encouragement telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this means to us, to our community, to all the little black and non-white girls that are going to see themselves in you. », she said.
A significant step for diversity
An opinion shared by Stephanie Troutman Robbins, associate professor at the University of Arizona. Co-author of Race in American Television (Greenwood, 2021, untranslated), she highlights the weight of representations for children. “You just have to see the joy of these little black girls watching someone who looks like them in a role that usually doesn’t look like them, she points out. It is fundamental. Even though some people struggle with that, having more representative children’s literature and children’s films is a step in the right direction, including for white children who don’t live in a multicultural environment. » In 2020, according to a survey by the National Research Group, two out of three African Americans felt that their lives were not properly represented on screen and 74% of those questioned said that inclusive content was a determining factor in watching a program.
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