This year Disney turns 100, a centenary of epic content built on the long-lasting belief that all dreams can come true. What better way to prove that than with a Black Disney Princess? The third in the history of Disney — shout out to Princess Tiana and Brandy’s Cinderella.
Halle Bailey’s Ariel is coming to our screens in a matter of months and we’re bubbling with excitement. Following her lead in the case of Black women portraying iconic Disney lead characters will be Yara Shahidi’s Tinkerbell in the upcoming Peter Pan movie, set to premiere on Disney+ later this year.
Nothing can quite describe the feeling of seeing history being rewritten, and most importantly, seeing Black girls rewrite that history.
The full trailer for the highly anticipated live action remake of The Little Mermaid was shown for the first time at the 2023 Oscars on Sunday night — check out more iconic social justice wins from this year’s Academy Awards.
Firstly, can we get applause for how beautiful the trailer is? Not only does Bailey look stunning with her iridescent tail and delightfully long red dreadlocks in the movie, but the visuals overall are so striking they make you want to scoot to the edge of your seat so you can reach out and touch a world that you now also want to be part of.
The trailer is a must-watch for every Global Citizen, beyond the fact that we stan Halle Bailey. This feels like a Disney movie remake done right for so many reasons. It looked at what the 1989 animation lacked in its messaging and its imagery, and decided to show up and represent the world we currently live in. Without further ado, these are the reasons every Global Citizen should stop what they’re doing right now and watch the Little Mermaid trailer.
1. A wonderfully diverse cast
The casting directors didn’t just sprinkle in one or two people of color in the smallest roles available to fill a quota. Oh no, they filled their cast with incredibly talented actors who have always deserved to shine.
With Hamilton star Daveed Diggs who is dazzling in all of his roles, Crazy Rich Asians actress Awkwafina in her second Disney motion picture after Raya and the Last Dragon, and let’s not forget the one, the only, Academy Award Winner Javier Bardem as King Triton — the movie is far from being short on talent, and it just so happens that that talent is also admirably diverse in ethnicity and nationality. Other actors of color set to star in the film include Simone Ashley, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lorena Andrea, and Noma Dumezweni.
2. It’s a story about unity, not just love
If you watched the original 1989 animated version of the movie, you’ll remember the head-to-head argument between King Triton and Ariel, where she spoke a line that might have been romantic all those decades ago, but rewatching it today makes you cringe a little. That line was: “Daddy, I love him!”
Now, hear us out, there’s nothing wrong with love. It’s just that the line came after never having even spoken to Prince Eric… like not once. She knew nothing about him except the fact that he was a good looking human being. This reiterated the fallacy that women exist only to be with men, and that their decisions and hopes and dreams revolve around men. It’s a fallacy that Disney ran with for an embarrassingly long time.
However, this new 2023 version shifts gears, and we’re here for it. In what’s presumed to be that same scene, Ariel’s dialogue shifts her actions from being just about her love for a man she’s never spoken to, to standing up against prejudice and discrimination.
Triton says: “He’s a human, you’re a mermaid.”
To which Ariel responds: “That doesn’t make us enemies.”
Ariel doesn’t believe that a human life is less than a mermaid's life, unlike her father, the King of the Sea. She doesn’t see any reason to disapprove of humanity despite their differences. This, if you ask us, is a much better reason for rescuing Prince Eric.
3. The woman doesn’t need saving…
…it’s the opposite actually. The trailer opens with Prince Eric needing to be saved by Ariel. This, of course, is something that has carried over from the animated movie, but we just want to savor it because it’s still too rare that movies show men needing to be saved by women.
This is especially true of Disney movies in which Princesses are often damsels in distress who need a Prince to sweep them off their feet (or kiss them without their consent, ehhem, Sleeping Beauty we’re looking at you) to save them from their seemingly-horrible lives.
This symbolism shows that women are not always the ones in need of saving, and are actually strong enough to lift themselves and a drowning Prince out of whatever trouble they may face.
4. Life beneath the ocean is celebrated
If Ariel wants to be part of our world, then we volunteer to trade places with her because her world looks divine.
The movie has made sure to bring sea creatures, coral reefs, and the ocean itself to life in a way that honors the waters and every life form within them. From Ariel falling into a bed of bright pink jellyfish, to the dolphins ascending from the depths of the dark seas, even to the beauty that is Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula; this movie is bound to show us a delightful celebration of all things ocean.
Why is this important? Because we need to hold the oceans in this high regard so that we know the damage that we’ve been causing through our human footprints on this planet. We need to celebrate the beauty of the ocean so that we can aptly call for its protection against the climate crisis.
5. A Black Ariel
We’re not getting over this one as a point, and neither should you, because it’s that important. Seeing a Black Disney Princess on screen does so much for the next generation of Black girls who will grow to know that no matter what the world says, they are beautiful, they are capable, and their dreams can come true. Black women are constantly fighting to be seen, to be recognized, to be treated equally, and time and again they face the worst of the world's challenges.
What’s more is that Hollywood often celebrates depictions of Black women struggling — for instance, Lupita Nyong’o won an Oscar for her portrayal of a slave, Halle Berry won her Oscar for her role as a poverty-stricken woman who falls in love with a racist white man. Both these women deserved the statue of course, but it’s time for Black women to be recognized and applauded for fulfilling roles where they are not struggling as a result of being Black women.
So we’re ecstatic that Halle Bailey is Ariel, that Zendaya is MJ in the recent Spiderman movies, that Yara Shahidi is Tinkerbell, that Letitia Wright is Black Panther. We will never stop our applause for Black women.