A Disney-owned cable network has hit out at the “poor, unfortunate souls” criticising the decision to cast singer Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
In an open letter referencing Ursula the sea witch, Freeform reminded critics unhappy that the new Ariel “doesn’t look like the cartoon one” that ultimately the story is “a work of fiction”, and that the casting of the “highly talented, gorgeous” Bailey is “inspired”.
Rapper and actress Awkwafina, who will play seagull Scuttle in the remake, has also responded to the backlash, saying: “I don’t subscribe to that argument.”
Bailey’s casting was revealed last week, with the 19-year-old tweeting to say it was “a dream come true” to take on the famous role.
The decision was widely praised on social media, with many people discussing the significance of a black woman taking on the part.
However, there were others who objected to a black woman playing the red-headed mermaid princess of the original Disney film, using the hashtag #NotMyAriel.
In response, Freeform posted its open letter in support of Bailey.
Highlighting that the author of The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen was Danish, the letter said: “Ariel … is a mermaid. 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.”
It added: “[If] you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than 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.”
When asked about the criticism, Awkwafina said: “I think that she’s going to play an amazing mermaid. She’s an incredible singer, incredible actress and I’m really excited to have her as a Disney princess.”
Bailey, who is half of the RnB duo Chloe x Halle with her sister, Chloe, will star in the new adaptation, which will include songs from the 1989 animated Disney hit as well as new tunes from original composer Alan Menken and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Production is expected to start early next year.