Is Disney White-Washing History? The Public Criticizes the Live-Action ‘The Little Mermaid’ For “ERASING SLAVERY”

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Credit: Disney

How far is too far when it comes to protecting children?

Right now, one of the biggest movies in the world is the new live-action The Little Mermaid. The film, which stars actress and singer Halle Bailey, has taken the world by storm and is a certified hit at the box office. Much of the excitement surrounding the film has been regarding the color-blind casting. The film, which is directed by Rob Marshall, features a plethora of different races and ethnicities on screen, something that Disney has failed to do in the past.

Most of the narrative has been celebrating the diversity of the new The Little Mermaid remake, but now after its public release, some people are actually accusing Disney of white-washing a very serious part of history.

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Credit: Disney

Are We Lying to Our Children?

There’s no doubt that Disney’s animated classic, The Little Mermaid, has left an indelible mark in the hearts of millions around the world. Released in 1989, the film resonated with audiences of all ages and has since become a cultural phenomenon with its catchy songs, relatable characters, and timeless story. Since the live-action version was announced, fans were excited to see what additions would be introduced in the new live-action version.

One of the main differences in the new version is that this story takes place in the Caribbean in the 18th century. In the film, we see Ariel walk through the villages and marketplaces full of color and references from the culture at that time. However, some viewers couldn’t help but notice one major thing missing from the narrative.

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Credit: Disney

“We Should Think Twice Before We Watch Disney’s the Little Mermaid With out Children.”

Marcus Ryder, a writer from The Independent, noticed that the new live-action film completely erased the fact that the slave trade existed in the Caribbean during this time. While obviously, no one wants to take their young child to an intense movie about slavery, Ryder does note that the erasure of this part of history seems problematic. He says;

“Children’s films should not ignore the more difficult parts of our history, just because adults feel uncomfortable addressing them.

The question is: How do we make films for children of all races that acknowledge the horrors of historical events such as slavery, while making sure they are free to imagine a wonderful world unencumbered by racism and are not defined by it?

Ryder goes on to explain how setting any children’s fairytale in the 18th-century Caribbean seems like a problematic situation that could easily “encourage historical amnesia.”

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Credit: Disney

To See or Not to See?

While I’m not sure that people will consider this a “cancellable offence,” it definitely does bring up an important discussion on the conversations we choose to have with our children. Ryder mentions some other options for islands in this area, like Haiti, that did not have slavery at this time.

It will be interesting to see if this discussion leads to any comments from the Walt Disney Company.

About Eva Miller

Eva was born and raised in the beautiful state of Oregon but has since relocated and lives in New York City. Since she was young, Eva has loved to perform in musicals, especially Disney ones! Through performing, Disney’s music became the soundtrack of her childhood. Today, Eva loves to write about all the exciting happenings for the Walt Disney Company. In her free time, Eva loves to travel, spend time in nature, and go to Broadway shows. Her favorite Disney movie is 'Lilo and Stitch,' and her favorite Park is Disney's Animal Kingdom.