For years, Disney fans have been calling for the company to be a little more daring in their castings. Just a decade ago, after 49 animated classics, the first black Princess was born: The Princess and The Frog lead character, Tiana. Now, Disney are going a welcome step further, having cast a young black actress to portray Ariel in their upcoming live-action feature, The Little Mermaid.
Director and producer of the film, Rob Marshall, explained that an "extensive" search took place to find the film's lead, but it was "abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance - plus a glorious singing voice - all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role".
It shouldn't be deemed controversial to cast an actor of colour in a role that was previously taken by, or portrayed as, a white person, but unfortunately we find ourselves in a world where bigotry and in particular, racism, runs rampant. When you take a look at the vitriol and divisive vocabulary thrown around so freely by some of the most powerful leaders in the world, it's not difficult to see why.
We also now live in a time when such poisonous bile can be freely spouted without consequence, due to the rise of social media. Many of those engaging in such cowardice can point their hatred directly towards the subject of their malice. Whilst it's quite clear those being so cruel are in the minority, when they're given such a platform to run free, it can often feel like quite the opposite.
Fortunately, Bailey can rest easy in the knowledge not only that she is likely more successful than every single person sending hate her way, but in the very fact that her casting as Ariel will mark a poignant and incredibly important moment in history.
This isn't 'just another' Disney announcement, but one that goes to show black excellence is a very real and exciting thing. Those working on The Little Mermaid searched 'extensively' according to the movie's director, and they decided that the best woman for the job was a 19-year-old woman of colour. This would not have happened even just a few years back. We are moving in an exciting, and inclusive direction.
Diversity in kid-friendly media is more appropriate and necessary today than at any point in the younger generation's history. "White nostalgia" may be a thing, but its level of importance when stacked up against making sure that equality is front-and-centre for children in the current political climate? It's not even on the same playing field.
In spite of troubling times, it's things like this that remind the majority of us fighting for a better world that we are winning. Disney, Hollywood, and in particular, Halle Bailey: we salute you!
Now enjoy this short clip of Halle Bailey singing Unforgettable...
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