The Little Mermaid cast Ariel this month, signing on grown-ish actress Halle Bailey for the lead role. Since then, as often happens when characters change gender or ethnicity, the internet has been abuzz about the casting, and not always in a positive manner.
So, Freeform, the parent network of grown-ish, which again, features Halley Bailey, took it upon itself to respond to the criticisms, creating a letter for what the network’s social media team is calling the “poor unfortunate souls. Take a look:
The reference to Ursula’s famous Little Mermaid track kicks off a lengthy post that gets deep into the history of Ariel as a character, a character who originated in a Danish story written by Hans Christian Andersen back in 1837.
The original story is actually much different than the Disney version that was animated back in 1989. In the original, the Little Mermaid has a father and sisters but also a grandmother. Yet, because she is a mermaid she has no soul and will return to sea foam when she dies. This is why she craves humanity and gets involved with a sea witch to earn her legs.
In the original fairytale – and spoilers – the Little Mermaid does not end up with the prince, as he marries another. Yet, through a series of events, she does obtain a chance to earn her soul.
Clearly, there are differences between the original fairytale and the animated Disney version. There’s really a lot of leeway for the the live-action version of the story to go in a different direction as well, not that Disney necessarily has any plans to change the germ of its animated tale for this new version.
Previously, The Little Mermaid stage actress Diana Huey, who is Japanese-American, shared that she also faced adversity after being cast as a non-white Ariel for the theater version. She has also defended Halle Bailey’s casting, noting that once she had the costume on, the kids viewing weren’t concerned about her playing the popular character:
I never had one kid in 300-something shows over the course of a year say, ‘Oh, you don’t look like Ariel.’ They would see me come out of the stage door with my hair and street clothes and throw themselves at me screaming. ‘Ariel!’ when I looked like Diana. The kids were totally on board.
For the most part, people in general seem to be supportive of the casting choice, even sharing cool looks at what the character could look like and more.
Still, in general when a character changes gender or race for a movie that already has an avid fanbase, it becomes a talking point. This time, Freeform felt it needed to speak out on the matter.
We’ll have to wait and see if Halle Bailey ends up being the right actress for Ariel and whether or not the upcoming version will be similar to its animated counterpart or very different, like Maleficent and Dumbo have particularly been.
Grown-ish is set to return to Freeform for Season 3.