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John William Waterhouse, A Mermaid. (Photo: Public Domain)

Racial Gymnastics: The Little Mermaid is not The Wiz

If everything is racist, then nothing is racist

By J. Mitchell Sances, June 4, 2023 2:45 am

Disney’s new live action version of the Little Mermaid stars up-and-coming black actress Halle Bailey in the title role. The choice to cast a black actress in the part has garnered some pushback from fans of the original Disney cartoon as this departure is not the homage to the original it pretends to be. The character Ariel was known for her red hair and porcelain white skin.

Of course any mention of minority skin color nowadays is labeled as racist, ergo the grumbling audience is now reduced to carrying the moniker of “white supremacist”. Actress and singer Stephanie Mills added to the calls of racism by likening the criticism of Bailey to the criticism she endured in the 1970s when cast as Dorothy in the Broadway production of The Wiz.

In a letter Mills posted publicly on Twitter, she wrote to Bailey, “I know what this baby #HalleBailey has been dealing with. I got so much hate mail, I was told Judy Garland ‘is turning over in her grave.’ All because a little black girl was playing a roll [sic] that was once played by a white girl. It’s sad to see the same thing is happening to this beautiful, talented, smart and intelligent actress.”

The Wiz was an adaptation of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the more popular film The Wizard of Oz. It was not a remake of the original, but a newly devised script seeking to highlight contemporary African American culture in the 1970s. In her comparison of the Little Mermaid remake and The Wiz, Mills seems to be comparing apples and oranges.

Her role as Dorothy in The Wiz was written specifically for a black woman, and it is only appropriate for a black woman to fill that role. The criticism and vitriol thrown at the writing and production of the black-centric musical and by extension Mills could conceivably be considered a type of racism. Moreover, in 1970s America it is likely that racism was far more prevalent than it is today. If The Wiz were produced and remade in 2023 for a modern audience, it would be extremely strange to cast a white woman in the role of Dorothy, or any role for that matter. In fact, it is likely that doing so would further spark cries of racism, “cultural appropriation”, and “white washing”.

There is another layer of race-based hypocrisy in the remake of the Little Mermaid. The casting for the film is full of racial conundrums. Ariel is played by Halle Bailey who is black. King Triton, Ariel’s father, is played by Javier Bardem, a Spanish born actor. Ariel’s sisters are played by Lorena Andrea, an actress with Colombian ancestry, and Simone Ashley, an actress of Tamil Indian descent. Four very different racial backgrounds are supposed to play four biologically related characters.

Despite the scientific impossibility of this scenario, one might call the casting of the film “color-blind”. However, last I checked race-obsessed progressives who subscribe to Critical Race Theory consider color-blind practices to be problematic. Sociologist Neil Gotanda wrote an academic piece entitled “A Critique of ‘Our Constitution is Color-Blind’” in which he asserts that in an application being “color-blind” is stripping the minority applicant of an integral part of his/her identity and racial story. If that is a tenet that adherents of CRT choose to buy into, why is it acceptable for a film to ask its audience to disregard the complex and integral part of the characters’ identities? If race is of the utmost importance, why is Disney allowed to ignore it when they pick and choose?

All of these hypocritical and ridiculous mental gymnastics the left puts on race and identity politics have done nothing but water down the term “racism”. When complaints about a film’s casting choice and a truly abhorrent act like lynching are both labeled as “racism”, the word has lost all of its sting, all of its heft, all of its evil. If everything is racist, then nothing is racist. That is not the win for equity or equality that we need in this country.

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3 thoughts on “Racial Gymnastics: The Little Mermaid is not The Wiz

  1. Disney is poking us in the eye with a sharp stick and then wailing when we object. I say we stand back and watch them crash and burn. Perhaps a true Disney heir (spiritually if not genetically) can pick up the pieces and rebuild Walt’s dream of a clean and uplifting Family amusement park.

  2. Disney is on the warpath against their fans. They then act offended when their deliberate offense is called out. Disney is crashing and burning. They just had to take a Billion and a half right down of assets.

    Perhaps someday Disney will be revived as it was originally conceived by Walt.

  3. These big companies seem to be in a big rush to change everything before Trump takes over and calls them out as what they are: wanna be race baiters with a captive audience because they are a monopoly.

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