More “Little Mermaid” Ethics: The White Ariel Version Of The Black Ariel Version Of The White Animated Ariel

In yesterday’s post, “Stop Making Me Defend Disney!,” Ethics Alarms looked at the controversy over Disney’s live-action version of its 1989 classic animated film “The Little Mermaid” that casts a black performer, Halle Bailey (not Halle Berry) as the Hans Christian Anderson heroine. Well, this one is moving fast.

One of the many fans who object to imposing “diversity, equity and inclusion” on “The Little Mermaid” announced via Twitter that technology was now available that could digitally transform Bailey into a white, red-haired mermaid just as Disney had transformed its original Ariel into a black one:

Naturally,woke social media is going nuts. So is the reliably knee-jerk progressive propaganda site “Above the Law,” whose head honcho, Joe Patrice, immediately pronounced the exercise “racist.” His commentary is headlined, “Racists Are Trying To Erase Halle Bailey From The Live Action Little Mermaid.” Really? Clearly, “racist” has no meaning any more, just whatever a progressive wants it to mean to shut down debate. How can it be racist for someone to prefer that a live-action Ariel look like the animated version, but not racist to prefer that Ariel be portrayed as black, which is what Disney apparently decided, or, for that matter, for State Farm’s marketing department to change “Jake from State Farm” from a white guy to a black guy? Or for HBO to change TV’s Paul Drake, Perry Mason’s tall, blond investigator in the classic CBS series, into a black guy for its reboot?

Of course the exercise of digitally restoring the Little Mermaid to her ginger identity is not racist. It’s stupid. It’s unfair to the movie and its artists, including Bailey. It’s illegal, if the digitally altered version is distributed. It is also kind of scary, if we are entering a new technological age where jokesters and fanatics can turn Humphrey Bogart into Jennifer Lawrence in “Casablanca” and John Wayne into Idris Elba in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”

But the claim that those wanting to see the live version of a beloved animated film feature a leading actress who looks like the character in the original are motivated by racism is another example of ideological bullying, requiring a measured response of “Bite me.”

Oh..I almost forgot. Twitter took down that tweet above. It’s WrongThink. You know…fascists.

33 thoughts on “More “Little Mermaid” Ethics: The White Ariel Version Of The Black Ariel Version Of The White Animated Ariel

  1. Digital manipulation of images is here to stay. One of the acts on America’s Got Talent last night used the tech to transform one singer into a very credible Elvis Presley who then was joined digitally by a few of the judges. It is virtually (hah!) impossible to distinguish the real from the fake when seen on the screen.
    For a look at what can be done, go here [note: WordPress doesn’t like hyper links, but you can copy and paste this link]:

    https://www.yahoo.com/video/viva-las-vegas-americas-got-talent-shockingly-revives-elvis-for-season-17-finale-040102132.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAALpZorqTiA0L0H5LwAVk19bEsqjCgpbhBSGBgpD-C_R9wvUhJlNU0HFNapqBJ1mBUV_wHD8TkLHsXTgfrhAHhr6WqYB27vRGFOnSMkCUtRaPf4gkGVj47yNoR-u1MoLI-BXeTwfVDc78PT0616XkDVouXhtGjSYdi6lMhxsfm9pa

    And, yes, allegations of racism all to often are a substitute for rational thought and a way to end discussion.

  2. … TV’s Paul Drake, Perry Mason’s tall, blond investigator in the classic CBS series …

    It would be more precise to say that he was prematurely grey-haired, following stressful war service that may have brought it on. Apparently he had darker hair before that.

  3. Ugh! As much as i think that the change from the original animation was virtue-signaling on the part of Disney, this move is just silly.

    -Jut

  4. I think I’ll stick with the TSR merfolk, who tend to be blue or green skinned, thereby eliminating the need for this question. I actually do know a few performing mermaids ( http://www.circussirenpod.com ) and they just go with their own skin tones, making up the appropriate backstory for ech, with black performers claiming to be from Wakanda or some other fanciful black place, and oriental ones claiming to be ningyo, Japanese merfolk who supposedly serve the lord of the deep.

  5. As we’ve been seeing for quite some time now, the arrow of “cultural appropriation” only goes one way. And that is directly towards White people. We’re seeing all sorts of examples of traditionally White characters being recast with black actors. But try to recast one single traditionally black character with a White actor and you’ll generate riots. The true racists are the ones constantly squawking about racism.

    • Correct. You can only cast racially, ethnically, religiously, sexually oriented, and specially performers for each role. That goes across all genres. No more casting of theater actors to play big-screen movie productions, and you certainly can’t have an American actor cast as a Spanish fencer and henchman to a Sicilian criminal or Quasimodo (or Squanto, for that matter). Never again will such cultural appropriations occur because they will not be permitted: Only collies will cast as “Lassie”. Only a pig can be cast as “Peppa Pig” (which goes without saying . . .). Only a Hobbit can be cast as a Hobbit. And only an elf can be cast as an elf. That makes things clear, ¿right?

      Now, Jack contends that casting decisions should rest with the director, producer, and the roles played. Nope. Frankly, western entertainment has played fast and loose with the rules for far too long and appropriated some many other cultures that a true course must be corrected.

      There is a solution to this problem: I suggest that Hollywood, and all other avenues of entertain create an Accuracy In Entertain Board, consisting of equal numbers of persons and species representing each race, gender, religion, species, and phyla, with equal voting rights, with the stated goal of addressing historic and systemic oppression in Western entertainment for the last 1050 years. Casting will absolutely require casting consistent with the work’s character. For instance, when performing “Man of La Mancha”, only Spaniards will be cast as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and the name of the work shall be “Don Quixote” not the western appropriation of “Man of La Mancha”, performed in the original Castiliano, with proper accents. “Les Misérables” will consist solely of French actors performing in French as it was spoken during the French Revolution. “The Lion King” will be consist solely of lions, hyenas, and other Serengeti speicies, and the dialogue will be in the language of the respective species. “Superman” must be played by a Kryptonite stranded on Earth. “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights” in the original Arabic with Middle Eastern performers. “3 Mile Island” will only have nuclear power plants. “Doctor Zhivago”, well, you get the idea.

      That should solve the problem.

      jvb

      • “Only a Hobbit can be cast as a Hobbit.”

        My brother was a hobbit extra in the Hobbit films, but you’re saying he can no longer be cast as a hobbit in any future films. What if he identified as a hobbit? Is that close enough or does he have to have his feet enlarged in an operation?

        • The Accuracy In Entertain Board will have to determine whether transpeciesists are allowed to identify as other species. That will require unanimous consent of all entitled to vote on three separate public ballots.

          jvb

      • I am in favor of taking this to the ultimate conclusion: all performers may only portray themselves in all forms of entertainment. The disgusting practice of creating “characters” for actors to pretend to be must be stopped. It is reductive and patronizing. Unless you actually are Luke Skywalker, from a galaxy far, far away, how can you claim to know what is in his mind, heart, and soul?

        This solution neatly solves the cultural appropriation concerns, but does limit most actors to careers with the lifespan of a fruit fly. Ah, well, it’s for a better world. We all must make sacrifices.

  6. I need to vent somewhere since I have been jailed by Facebook. (Is that a badge of honor or should I hang my head in shame?) My 24-hour ban resulted from this. Alabama is about to use Nitrogen Inhalation as a means to effect capital punishment reported by a local news site. I explained the pathophysiology of the process. Namely, Nitrogen Inhalation causes death by slow asphyxiation like strangling someone with a garrot or tieing a plastic bag around one’s neck. I suggested a well-aimed bullet would be more efficient and more humane. I was told that I violated community standards and that I could challenge the Facebook decision. Unfortunately, there was no way to contact Facebook to discuss my grievance. Can anyone explain what in that post could have offended “users” and what I could do to amend my ways?

    • The lived experience of nitrogen inhalation varies. For some people, it works out with that sort of distress much as you say, so your objection to the method is sound.

      However, the mechanism is not as you say, “like strangling someone with a garrot [sic] or tieing [sic] a plastic bag around one’s neck”. That is because those methods produce a carbon dioxide build–up in the subject, and that triggers breathing reflexes with a lot of distress when thwarted. With nitrogen inhalation, breathing flushes that carbon dioxide out and that particular triggering doesn’t happen. In fact, nitrogen inhalation works much like breathing carbon monoxide, in which oxygen can still be there but stops getting taken up by the blood (that is technically toxic, as it doesn’t stop when regular air is restored, unlike nitrogen inhalation). Under those circumstances, we know from clinical histories that there can still be distress like a bad headache, it’s just that the distress is “only” produced by the direct effects of oxygen starvation, e.g. on nerve tissue, or by the lactic acid build-up as the body responds to that by switching to short-term anaerobic metabolism. For some people, that produces little distress, and for others, a lot.

      For what it’s worth, my own musings on the subject suggest that there might be little distress in adapting the old Malagasy execution method, holding the subject’s head down in a worn out rice storage pit and pouring in a lot of boiling water, if it instead used a fast acting anaesthetic like ethyl chloride along with dimethyl sulphoxide to make it penetrate the skin even if the subject tried to hold his breath. But the operators would have to be protected from it too, and there is always the distress of the whole procedure leading up to that.

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