Posted on June 4, 2023

‘Little Mermaid’ Slammed by Black Activist for ‘Erasing’ Slavery

Brooke Steinberg, New York Post, June 2, 2023


“The Little Mermaid” is being criticized by a prominent diversity advocate for its erasure of slavery in the Caribbean.

Marcus Ryder, an influential British campaigner and chair of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, applauded the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel — but took issue with how the movie showcased racial harmony.

“A world in which the very idea of race for the main characters seems to be subverted, consciously ignored and at the same time Black beauty is celebrated, needs to be applauded,” Ryder wrote in a blog post.

{snip} “While the importance of casting the Little Mermaid as a Black woman has been commented on in numerous articles the casting of the other roles is also worth a mention … At the same time the Little Mermaid’s father is White while her Mermaid sisters are of various different races and ethnicities. {snip}”

However, in the blog, titled “Disney’s the Little Mermaid, Caribbean Slavery, and Telling the Truth to Children,” Ryder points out that the movie appears to take place in the Caribbean in the 18th century during a time of African chattel slavery — yet the islanders depicted in the film seem to live in a world free of this inhumanity.

“In this setting, I do not think we do our children any favors by pretending that slavery didn’t exist,” he wrote. {snip}

Though he acknowledged that the movie is a fantasy and doesn’t necessarily need to be historically accurate, he said that Disney shouldn’t be “encouraging historical amnesia.”

“But the total erasure and rewriting of one of the most painful and important parts of African diasporic history, is borderline dangerous, especially when it is consumed unquestioningly by children,” he added.

Ryder proposed that Disney could have instead set the live-action film in Haiti after slavery was overthrown, with Ariel meeting Prince Eric in the wake of real racial harmony and not sacrificing historical accuracy.