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The Little Mermaid: Cancelling Childhood Classics?

Disney’s recent live-action adaptation of the beloved classic “The Little Mermaid” has sent shockwaves through the world! How, you ask? By not acknowledging the historical backdrop of slavery in its 18th-century Caribbean setting. One critic even likened it to sweeping the Holocaust under the rug in a story set in 1940s Germany. Now that’s a comparison that’s sure to make you gasp!

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Not Your Average Under the Sea Tale

Credit: DepositPhotos

This new flick, based on Disney’s 1989 animated feature (and the original 1837 fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen), has become a hotbed of controversy. From the racial recasting of Ariel to a new rap song by Asian American actress Awkwafina and even complaints about the film lacking in “kink”, this ain’t your grandma’s “Little Mermaid”!

The Elephant in the Room

What’s stirring the pot, though, is the accusation from a top British performing arts professional, who lamented the film’s “erasure” of slavery. Marcus Ryder, the big boss at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, praised the film for its casting of a Black actress as Ariel, calling it “anti-racism at work.” But he also pointed out a “massive problem” – the film’s obliviousness to the historical reality of slavery. He wrote, “I do not think we do our children any favors by pretending that slavery didn’t exist.” Yikes!

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What’s the Big Deal?

According to Ryder, the film paints a picture of racial harmony in 18th-century Caribbean. He thinks this is problematic, arguing that it would be similar to depicting 1940s Germany as a time of religious tolerance. “I do not want my child to think that the Caribbean in the 18th century was a time of racial harmony,” Ryder stated, creating an emotional chord that’s hard to ignore. 

Is Disney’s Magic Fading?

In Ryder’s eyes, Disney’s choice to gloss over this “inconvenient truth” is more of a reflection on the adult creators than it is on children’s ability to understand complex issues. He deemed the disregard for such a significant part of African diasporic history as “borderline dangerous.” Not a verdict Disney would have expected!

So, do you agree with Ryder’s harsh criticism? Or do you think a fairy tale can exist in its own bubble, untouched by harsh historical realities? Share your thoughts below and let’s keep the conversation going!

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