Today The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Disney has found its new Ariel in Halle Bailey, half of R&B group Chloe X Halle. There has already been some controversy over the fact that Ms. Bailey doesn’t look exactly like the animated character. You can read the whole story here.
Virginia: I had actually never heard of Halle or her group before, but when I read this news, I looked them up. Admittedly, it isn’t the type of music I usually listen to, but it’s not bad, and the girl can definitely sing. I think it’s ridiculous that people are so mad about this, but not necessarily surprising. What do you think, Munir?
Munir: I also hadn’t heard of Ms. Bailey until today. And I also agree that it’s ridiculous (and racist) that people are complaining about the casting. Personally, I’m not excited about this, but it doesn’t have anything to do with her casting. Like you already know, I’m not particularly happy about Disney’s live-action remakes. While I’m glad for her and hope that this open doors for her in the future, I can’t say I’m looking forward to seeing the film.
V: Personally, I see all of the remakes even if I don’t think they look that good. Some are definitely better than others, as with anything else. People are saying that the original story is set in Denmark, and therefore it’s racist/SJW to cast a black actress in the film. Some of the Disney remakes (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) have already shoe-horned in people who wouldn’t be in their respective settings, and I know people tend to get touchy about these things anyway. However, for one thing, you can’t expect historical/literary accuracy from Disney. They’re a business, not an educational resource. They’ve never been faithful to the source material, and they aren’t going to start now. For another thing, it’s not like Ariel is the princess of Denmark; she’s a friggin’ mermaid. I don’t think she has to be the same race as the Danes in the actual human kingdom. If anything, this will actually set her apart more.
M: Agreed. Besides, this is not an adaptation of the original story; it’s a remake of the animated film in which a setting is never specified. Also, I find it hard to believe that the animated film was set in Denmark when you have a crab with a Jamaican accent singing reggae. Not very Danish, is it? So the arguments that Ariel should be white are ridiculous. If there’s one thing that these live-action remakes are doing correctly and should continue doing, it’s casting minorities in their lead roles. As I said, I think Ms. Bailey is going to do a fine job as Ariel. The fact that she can sing is a plus because it would avoid the autotune nightmare that was Beauty and the Beast, but on the whole, my excitement for the film is almost non-existent.
V: That’s a good point; these remakes are more closely tied to the animated films than they are to the books. Yes, I hope her singing abilities will save us from the autotune. I don’t even like it in regular music, let alone musical films.
M: I feel like when it comes to the remakes, the ones from older films like The Jungle Book and Dumbo have the liberty to deviate from the animated movies. However, the 90’s Renaissance period is deeply embedded in our society, and the nostalgia factor towards those films is powerful. That’s why they are copying the animated movies almost shot for shot. Sure, they include one or two new songs, but they don’t add anything meaningful to the story and aren’t nearly as memorable as the original songs. That was the case with Beauty and the Beast, and, from what I’ve read (and what you have told me), Aladdin as well. Just looking at the clips that have been released from The Lion King, it seems that’s the case there as well. That’s even more ridiculous since it’s an animated remake of an animated film. I enjoy the live-action Jungle Book and Cinderella (even if at the end it shot itself in the foot) because they at least try to differentiate themselves from their animated counterparts. However, I fear that The Little Mermaid is going to go the same way as the other three from the Renaissance. And honestly, I’m just exhausted at that kind of lazy filmmaking and cheap use of nostalgia. Sorry, I have digressed a little. Going back to the casting news, I believe it is an intriguing choice, and that’s all I can say about it.
V: That’s an interesting point about the Renaissance films being more entrenched in our culture. Except for Cinderella, I think I agree, and that just might be one of the reasons. I’m also very tired of the shot-for-shot recreations, and I prefer remakes that do something new like Dumbo and Cinderella. The casting of Bailey as Ariel is actually a step in the right direction, in my opinion; we already have the animated film, so do something different.
M: Definitely. I wish the best of luck to Ms. Bailey, and I hope the film offers something different from the animated classic. I’m also cautiously optimistic about Mulan since reports have surfaced that it’s making some new choices that would deviate from the animated film. I would welcome that even if most people are furious about it. It’s like they don’t know what they want. If Disney does a shot-for-shot remake, they want something different; if Disney does something different, they want the same story as the original. Me? If they show me a good, different spin, I’ll be there. If they show me the same film with the only difference being that it features real people, I’ll pass.
V: I agree. It puzzles me when people are angry about the changes made. In practice, those changes may be bad or poorly executed, but you can’t determine that from an announcement or think-pieces on a blog. These remakes could really add something different and unique if they wanted to. But, as you said, a lot of them are made to cash in and nothing more.
M: What do you think of this news? Are you excited for the new Ariel? Are you excited for the film? Let us know in the comments!