Well-known Disney actor Josh Gad recently dubbed so-called fans of The Little Mermaid “pathetic” online.
Gad, known for his roles as the voice of Olaf the snowman for the Frozen franchise, and LeFou in the live-action Beauty and the Beast (2017), responded to the enormous backlash against the upcoming Little Mermaid live-action, starring Black singer-songwriter and actress Halle Bailey. Since Bailey’s casting in 2019, the performer has unfortunately faced criticism from “fans” of the original 1989 film starring Jodie Benson as a white, red-haired mermaid who trades her voice in exchange for the chance to walk on land.
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Sadly, such purists have come after the star for her vocal abilities, skin color, hair, and more within the new film’s reimagined version of the undersea princess, despite vocal support from Benson and the movie team that Halle is the right choice for the role. Director Rob Marshall previously responded to claims that Disney merely chose the star to fill a “woke” agenda, asserting that Bailey perfectly fit the criteria for Ariel’s character, including passion, beauty, incredible strength, and “a great deal of fire and joy” to play the smart and clever princess.
The Little Mermaid (2023) adapts the classic fairytale, breathing new life and context into the iconic Disney Renaissance hit both through expanding upon some characters, such as Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), and adding new music via a collaboration between composer Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs, and Javier Bardem in roles like King Triton, Ursula, Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle.
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As Disney reveals more sneak peeks of the film, viewers online have reacted negatively to everything different about the more realistic live-action take from the CGI animation for Ariel’s creature companions to the different shades of red Bailey’s locs display compared to the cartoon Ariel’s unnaturally bright “fire engine” hair. However, the attacks on Bailey are not exactly comparable to these other matters of opinion due to the fact that many of them stem from racial prejudice against the singer based exclusively on her background and not her abilities to fit the qualifications of the role.
New projects such as Strange World (2022) and Peter Pan & Wendy, which features actors of color in the roles of Peter and Tinker Bell, have faced similar racist backlash. In fact, since Disney released the first Little Mermaid teaser trailer, bigots have given it 3.5 million dislikes on social media.
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According to PEOPLE, Gad came to Bailey’s defense, calling out these Little Mermaid-obsessed purists for their fixation on her race and preoccupation with bringing the remake down:
Imagine being so broken and pathetic in life that your chief concern is the skin color of… a make-believe singing mermaid. https://t.co/7F6F8LT2b9
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) March 16, 2023
On Thursday, Gad called these fake fans “broken and pathetic” for making “the skin color of…a make-believe singing mermaid” their lives’ “chief concern.” Moreover, Bailey herself has spoken about the positives of her casting and the new change it brings to the princess, noting gratitude for the perspective it offers “all the other little Black and brown boys and girls who will see themselves in me” for Ariel to be played by a woman of color.