Representation & “The Little Mermaid”

Mermaid fin with gradient background

By now, you’ve probably seen ample media and marketing promoting Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid. Announced in 2016, the remake has been part of the cultural conversation for years, especially after the casting of Halle Bailey (not Halle Berry) as Ariel. While both Bailey and the film have faced racist attacks, countless people have shown up to celebrate the ground-breaking representation offered in the film.

We can’t forget the many viral videos after Disney released The Little Mermaid’s first official trailer. In countless clips, Black girls expressed amazement and excitement at seeing someone that looked like them on screen. Research has proven the many ways that representation matters: when Black children are exposed to meaningful representation they have higher self-esteem, better body-image, and a more positive self-image. Meaningful representation also inspires an undeniable joy. Both of these outcomes are important.

It is clear that Disney and Bailey both recognize the significance of this moment. The premiere channeled the same energy of those viral videos with celebrities like Offset, Tamera Mowry-Housley, and Tia Mowry attending with their daughters. Bailey has also done a lot of press where the interviewers are young Black girls, excited to see their Ariel–a princess that looks like them.

As Bailey shared on the red blue carpet, “This moment means everything to me…especially for the beautiful babies to be able to see a reflection of themselves. I am just honored to be a part of this and to be one of the princesses now because for me it was Brandy as Cinderella and Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana so the fact that I’m getting to continue this and live on this kind of legacy is really exciting.”

Brandy and Anika Noni Rose showed generations of Black girls that they deserve to be both magical and the main character. Halle Bailey is doing the same with a new generation of viewers.

Take Action! The Little Mermaid is now in theaters.