Dear Caring Adults,
How many of you are going to see the live action version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid? The original animated film debuted in the 80’s and was a staple in my household. Ariel’s story had been relatable to me for a few reasons. First off, some of the film’s music has an island feel to it which is akin to what I had been used to hearing at home and was simply refreshing to experience in an animated film.
The theme that resonated most for me at the time was that similar to Ariel, I was being raised by my widowed dad. This wasn’t something that was very common for single parent homes that I knew of at the time so this definitely provided a sense of unspoken belonging for me; this aspect was enough for me to feel seen. But I look back and wonder to myself… was this only because children my age never really had the pleasure of seeing characters that looked like them on the big screen? Was I simply not expecting anything more with the knowingness that there just wasn’t that level of representation at the time? There most certainly are layers to the idea of representation but even still, it is as if Black children are often forced to accept whatever crumbs of representation they can get.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of accompanying my god children to see the revamp of the film. We celebrated my god daughter’s earthstrong at the cinema and she invited a few of her friends to watch the movie. Her guests were a very diverse bunch of girls and to say the least, the look on each of their faces was definitely something that money cannot buy. It is such a healthy thing for children to see themselves and others portrayed in positive roles.
In addition to Ariel’s role, there is a very intentional statement of diversity made with the other characters in the film as well – this is extremely powerful. Some may grow tired of hearing me say that representation truly matters but this weekend’s trip to the movies reinforced this for me once again.
Without any spoilers, I’d like to say that Halle Bailey did an exceptional job in her role as Ariel. Her vocal ability is nothing short of angelic perfection and the camera loves her. As a woman in my thirties, I even felt represented by seeing a Black woman with dreads, like me on a mainstream, big screen. Who knew that my inner child needed this dose of Halle Bailey as Ariel? Her leading role in itself is a huge shift in the forward movement of representation as a whole. The only thing that I believe would have enhanced Halle’s role would have been to have her locs in a brighter tone of red.
Interestingly, the choice for Halle Bailey playing Ariel is spot on but unfortunately, Sebastian the crab was a miss yet again. The fact is, we don’t know of anyone who speaks the way his character does in real life. While it is a fictional story, it is insinuated that his character is of Caribbean descent. This proceeds to pose Caribbean people/characters as spoofs or caricatures for comic relief. Yes, we got used to the original Sebastian voiced by the late Samuel E. Wright who originally hailed from North Carolina with no Caribbean roots that we know of. Now, with Daveed Diggs’ rendition who also doesn’t have Caribbean roots that we know of; we are once again left with something that isn’t a true representation. Representation matters most when it is authentic and not a stereotypical or manmade view.
It is my prayer that we would also have a chance in this lifetime to see Black men in prince type roles for our young boys to have some mainstream validation too. It would be even more fulfilling to be able to see original African, Caribbean or North American stories that are a reflection of our likeness and cultures on the big screen as well.
If you haven’t already seen the film yet, I implore you to go out and check it out! Let’s also remember that the more we support the actors and actresses that play these roles, the more the powers that be are able to see rallied support for diverse creators and the true need for fulsome representation, the more they will give it to us.
Let us know if you and your Lovely Learners enjoyed the show below!
Until next time,
Be Love, Be Light!