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After Racist Backlash Over Actress Halle Bailey Playing The Little Mermaid, Trevor Noah Responds

Halle Bailey as The Little Mermaid and Trevor Noah on The Daily Show
(Image credit: Disney/Comedy Central)

The casting of Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of the classic film The Little Mermaid resulted in lead star Halle Bailey receiving a fair amount of racist backlash. (Though for every hater, there seems to be a loving fan thrilled with her promising casting.) After the trailer showcased Bailey singing one of the classic film's songs in spectacular fashion, there are still some OG Little Mermaid fans that are not happy that Bailey's race does not align with the animated Ariel. Trevor Noah, as he does, has now reacted to this racist backlash and didn't hold back his thoughts.

One big critique of Halle Bailey’s casting is that she doesn’t resemble the animated version of Ariel, meaning she isn’t the pale-skinned or have the bright-colored red hair that people are used to seeing. In a segment on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah poked fun at this perceived problem, saying:

‘She looks nothing like the original.’ Nothing like? They both have the tail, they both have the red [hair]. ‘She looks nothing like her, how do I even know that she’s a mermaid?’

Trevor Noah sees through the commentary on Halle Bailey not looking like the original Ariel. In his estimation, those sentiments are a way to say that she isn’t preferred in the role because of her skin color. Well, the truth is that the Chloe x Halle alum has been a source of joy and inspiration for Black girls, as seen in viral TikToks. This is understandable, as many have surely grown up mostly seeing who white actors and characters in Disney and other areas in the entertainment industry. She is a prime example of why representation matters in kid-aimed productions.

While continuing to make his jokes, and very serious points, Trevor Noah pointed out the fictional nature of The Little Mermaid and that, well, Halle Bailey is playing a mermaid. The comedic news host then took the joke a step further by bringing in a common racist stereotype of Black family dynamics in relation to Finding Nemo, which pinpoints how ridiculous critiques of Bailey’s casting really are. Here it is in Noah’s own words:

Once again a bunch of internet racists are upset that a fictional character is being played by a Black person. Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal is. You guys realize that Nemo was Black too, right? Yeah, that whole movie was about a fish who can’t find his dad. Calm down, I can say that because my dad left, and he’s white, so who is racist now?

If viewers weren’t already aware of how openly ridiculous he is being in his joke, he went on to straight up tell the naysayers to “stop being ridiculous.” From there, he discussed his hopes for the film's release, which will happen in the spring of 2023. Here is what he says, exactly:

Look, stop being ridiculous, it’s imaginary. I hope this scandal doesn’t overshadow the rest of the movie. The Little Mermaid is a beautiful story about a young woman changing her core identity to please a man, let’s not forget about that.

Despite the negative reactions to Halle Bailey’s version of Ariel, there are plenty of fans who are totally for her portrayal. They're also making not of Bailey's arguably superior singing abilities. In short, these fans can’t wait to see Bailey take on the whole film, and the 2023 movie release will surely get some buzz when it opens on May 26 next year. With big name media names like Trevor Noah calling out the backlash and fans showing their immense support, it looks like even those negative comments may not succeed in bringing down Bailey’s The Little Mermaid.

Carlie Hoke
Content Writer

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.