Disney’s New The Little Mermaid Faces Major Controversy


Alex Chizzik, Staff Writer

One of Disney’s most popular animated movies, The Little Mermaid, was turned into a live action film that premiered on May 26. The movie features a young mermaid named Ariel who longs to experience life as a human and is willing to give up almost anything to do so. The original, starring Jodi Benson, made $211.3 million dollars at the box office and is still a renowned classic enjoyed by many today. The new live-action version features an exciting cast including Halle Bailey (Ariel), Jonah Hauer-King (Prince Eric), Melissa McCarthy (Ursula), Daveed Diggs (Sebastian), and others. While the enchanting story has captivated audiences since the original premiered in 1989, many fans are displeased and upset regarding the remake and some of the decisions made by the Disney corporation.

For one, viewers are angry about the appearance and character of Flounder, Ariel’s friend. Although this remake was not an animation, Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) is a fish, and fans think that he looked extremely lifelike and emotionless throughout the film. In the original, he was yellow, bright, and always had a joyful presence, whereas audiences are now saying that the character fails to capture the essence and cheer as per the original.

In addition, many were upset with Halle Bailey, a black woman, being cast as Ariel, who is white with bright red hair. Many praised Bailey for taking on the role and were thrilled to have black representation in the film, but many took to social media with racist backlash regarding the casting. People wrote in captions and tweeted the hashtag #NotMyAriel  to oppose the casting decision on Disney’s behalf. Following some of the racist backlash, Freeform, a Disney-owned network, praised Bailey for being “incredible, sensational, highly talented, [and] gorgeous.” 

Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy on Becoming 'Little Mermaid ...
Photo taken from The Hollywood Reporter of the cast at the live action film’s world premiere.

On the other hand, many supporters were excited to have a positive representation for young black females around the world, showing them that race does not matter and that black girls are beautiful. One young girl exclaimed in a TikTok video that her mom filmed, “She’s black! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” Another said, “She’s like me!” 

Although there are some other minor controversies, the last main one is about the casting of Ursula, the movie’s antagonist. In the original, it was confirmed that the animated character was inspired by legendary drag performer Divine. When castings came out for the live-action version, many were upset to discover that the character would not be played by a drag queen, and would instead be played by Melissa McCarthy. 

In addition, The Little Mermaid makeup artist Peter Smith King received backlash and was accused of making McCarthy’s makeup look like drag makeup, while taking inspiration from Divine. King responded, “[Melissa McCarthy and I] discussed everything. I mean, we both laughed about how much we love drag queens and drag makeup and stuff. But it wasn’t based on any drag acts at all.” Even though it was confirmed that Ursula was originally based on Divine, King denies a connection between the late drag performer and McCarthy’s Ursula.

Even though the new live-action film is recently facing much controversy and hate online and on social media, the movie does have many very positive reviews and feedback. It is definitely worth going to the theater and watching, not only so you can enjoy the film, but also form an opinion regarding these controversies on your own.