People have been losing their damn minds over the casting of Halle Bailey in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. There are many folks excited to have a woman of color portray the beloved character, but there’s also been a lot of rampant racism going around.
Happily, someone intimately connected to the original Disney film has spoken out. Jodi Benson, who voiced the original Ariel, recently shared her opinion on Bailey’s casting and reminded us what we should really be focusing on.
“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts,” Benson said when asked about the casting controversy at Florida Supercon.
“And the outside package—cause let’s face it, I’m really, really old—and so when I’m singing ‘Part of Your World,’ if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel.”
“We need to be storytellers. And no matter what we look like on the outside, no matter our race, our nation, the color of our skin, our dialect, whether I’m tall or thin, whether I’m overweight or underweight, or my hair is whatever color, we really need to tell the story.”
Sierra Boggess, who originated the role of Ariel in the Broadway adaptation of The Little Mermaid, also shared her support for Bailey. In a tweet, Boggess referenced lyrics to “Part of Your World” and included mermaid emojis of every color:
“Alright, I’m tired of this, listen again: “Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand…” I hear this being the cry of EVERY little girl, don’t you?”
Alright, I’m tired of this, listen again: “Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand…” I hear this being the cry of EVERY little girl, don’t you? #Ariel #LittleMermaid #🧜🏾♀️🧜🏻♀️🧜🏽♀️🧜🏿♀️🧜♀️
— Sierra Boggess (@sierraboggess) July 5, 2019
Other Twitter users declared that with the stamp of approval from the original Ariel, haters are now officially cancelled and we need to move on with our lives.
jodi benson, the original ariel, just cancelled every bitch that hopped on #NotMyAriel
— alessia is iNLOVE WITH HARRY (@AlessiaMSaad) July 9, 2019
Jodi Benson won't have any of your racist nonsense https://t.co/W1cRXW9vG3
— Toongrrl (@Toongrrl1990) July 9, 2019
Jodi Benson (the orginal voice of Ariel) has officially put in her support for Halle for #TheLittleMermaid
That makes the original Ariel, the original Ariel on Broadway, & Disney themselves. All arguments against her are invalid & will go reported at this point cause I’m tired
— Captain Rogers (@KaydotM_) July 9, 2019
The outrage surrounding Bailey being cast as Ariel, and the ensuing (and thankfully, much larger) wave of folks defending her against racists who have gone so far as to cite ‘mermaid science‘ to prove the extent of their bigotry was so great, that people began wondering when Disney would intervene.
Freeform, the Walt Disney-owned cable channel that airs Grown-ish, did just that in an Instagram post on July 6th.
“Yes. The original author of The Little Mermaid was Danish. Ariel…is a mermaid,” reads the Freeform post. “She lives in an underwater kingdom in international waters and can legit swim wherever she wants…But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish.
“Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black. Ariel can sneak up to the surface at any time with her pals Scuttle and the *ahem* Jamaican crab Sebastian (sorry, Flounder!) and keep that bronze base tight. Black Danish people, and this mer-folk, can also *genetically* (!!!) have red hair.”
“The character of Ariel is a work of fiction,” continued the post. “So after all this is said and done, and you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than the INSPIRED casting that it is because she ‘doesn’t look like the cartoon one,’ oh boy, do I have some news for you…about you.”