The Little Mermaid trailer leads to discussions about representation in Disney


Tejasvini Ramesh

The trailer featured Halle Bailey singing Part of Your World.

Tejasvini Ramesh, Page Editor

Disney released the teaser trailer for the live action remake of The Little Mermaid on Sept. 9. The remake will star Halle Bailey as Ariel, who will become the first black woman to play this character. 

“Representation is important in media because when you see someone who looks like you and could even have the same struggles like you, it makes [you] feel seen, and it gives you that moment where you see yourself in that character,” said Black Student Union Secretary Jocelyn Zamora (‘24).

In the past, Disney has been known to have a controversial history with representation. Even films starring characters of color like Aladdin or The Princess and the Frog were criticized for being indirectly racist or telling inaccurate stories.

“[The Princess and the Frog] was a stepping stone for Disney since it was the first black character that we could see on the big screen, but she was, like many other characters of color, turned into an animal. [This is] unlike movies that feature white or eurocentric-looking characters like Jasmine who are human,” said Zamora. 

Although many saw this change in representation as being positive, others felt that casting a black woman would not match the original animation. In fact, the trailer allegedly received 1.5 million dislikes in one day for this reason.

“Race only matters in casting when it’s important to the story and history of the movie or show. However, race does not play an important role in the Little Mermaid, so race shouldn’t be an issue to anyone,” said Black Student Union Vice President Jillian Martucci (‘24).

In addition to race, telling authentic stories to avoid stereotypes and bias also can help to increase representation in the film industry.

“When people of color are hired to create Disney stories, the character can be represented more accurately without misleading stereotypes. It may feel like more effort, but Disney should be targeted toward all demographics, so that we can learn about new characters, cultures, and also feel represented ourselves,” said Mahika Sharma (‘23).   

While Disney is still working to achieve this  level of representation, casting a black woman for The Little Mermaid remake is progress toward inclusivity in films.

“Seeing the reactions from black children watching the new Little Mermaid trailer is absolutely heartwarming – I may have cried a little. This kind of representation is important to these children because seeing a character they can relate to will make them feel less alone and not outcasted,” said Martucci.