The Little Mermaid: criticism of actress Halle Bailey reveals the racism of our society

The first images of the live action of The little Mermaid, featuring African-American actress and singer Halle Bailey in the lead role, have received a slew of racist slurs in recent days. Such reactions, of which other actors have recently been victims, speak volumes about the white and normalized imagination of society.

Dince Saturday, September 10, the release of the trailer for the live action adaptation of The little Mermaidwhose heroine, Ariel, is embodied by a black actress, aroused strong reactions. If, on the one hand, many videos of little black girls moved to discover Halle Bailey embody the famous princess are circulating on the Web, on the other, a wave of racist commentsjudging that the young mermaid can traditionally only be a white womanwas quick to invade social networks.

As hopeless as it may be, it’s no wonder. Recently, other roles of famous fiction adapted on the big or small screen entrusted to non-white actors have indeed already caused controversy. Latest examples: the Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Cordovaqui, chosen to interpret the elf Arondir in Rings of Poweras well as the black actor Steve Toussaint, playing the noble Lord Corlys Velaryon in House of the Dragon.

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Each time, the criticisms and arguments are the same: choosing non-white artists to portray traditionally white heroines would undermine the authenticity of the work. It would even be “unnatural” for some… An anger that actually hides “unacknowledged racism“, told the HuffPost Anne Crémieux, professor of American civilization specializing in cinema and television series at the University of Paul-Valéry. Especially when it comes to “canons of white European civilization which present whiteness as a universal standard“.

People of color who are victims of “whitewashing”, are we talking about it?

If this recent largesse from the film and series industry is considered as slights by part of the public, it is important to remember that they have rarely been in the opposite case. Several times in the past, many white actors have indeed been chosen to play racialized people (and it apparently didn’t bother anyone). This is called the “white washing“. We can for example quote the comedian Jake Gyllenhaal in the film Prince of Persia. Taking on an Iranian actor was too difficult? We also remember Emma Stone playing a woman of Chinese and Hawaiian descent in Alohabut also of Angelina Jolie in the role of Mariane Pearl, a journalist of Afro-Latino-Cuban origin, in An unconquered heart. Again, using white actresses when the characters are not obviously did not move many people.

Other (really) irrelevant casting choices: they are Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul and Joel Edgerton, four Caucasian actorswho have been cast to play four racialized historical figures in the film Exodus: Gods and Kings. Gerald Butler in Gods of EgyptMax Von Sydow in Flash GordonKatharine Hepburn in The Son of the Dragon but also Natalie Wood in West Side Story… The list is still (very) long! However, nothing to be offended for many people. After all, it’s still fiction, right?

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