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Flint loves ‘The Little Mermaid’

Featured photo: Thirteen-year-old Ma’khila Taylor of Flint saw “The Little Mermaid” with her aunt LaRhonda Stallings-Milton and loved it! Photo by Tanya Terry.

Written by L. M. Land with Tanya Terry

Disney’s original animated movie, “The Little Mermaid,” was released in 1989. Their latest live-action remake, The Little Mermaid,” has been swimming in controversy ever since the casting of Black singer Halle Bailey was announced. The outcry is a sign of how much racism still exists in the United States today. The controversy was covered by the media in Forbes Magazine, The Mirror, CNN, LA Times, Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly, to name only a few.

The Rolling Stone titled an article: “Racists are Worried About the Historical Accuracy of Mermaids.” Wait!  What?  A fairy tale mermaid from 1837 can be historically accurate?

There is even a hastag, #NotMyAriel. But it also has a lot of people bravely defending the choice of Bailey as Ariel on this feed.

In a cover story for The Face, a British magazine, Bailey said “I know people are like: ‘It’s not about race.’ But now that I’m her… People don’t understand that when you’re Black, there’s this whole other community… It’s so important for us to see ourselves.”

After all the controversy and hype, The Courier wondered how our readers feel about the movie after seeing it.

Theresa Watkins, 39, saw the movie on opening night with her daughter, Ariel. Yes, her daughter Ariel is named after the little mermaid in the Disney cartoon version!  Watkins has been Ariel obsessed since her own childhood, and has a half-sleeve tattoo of the Little Mermaid world. She was hoping the new version would hold up to the cartoon version.  She was not disappointed.

Watkins said the movie is “super good,” except for some scenes that were too dark to see what was happening.  She is aware of the racial controversy and felt it shouldn’t have been an issue.  “I know it is a children’s tale, and not one child in the theater cared what color Ariel was. Her trademark was never the color of her skin, it was the color of her red hair. This Ariel is the most beautiful Disney princess to this day.”

Theresa Watkins and her daughter Ariel loved the new Little Mermaid movie. Watkins named her daughter after the 1989 version of The Little Mermaid. She feels that the new movie is “super good”,” and plans to get a tattoo of the new Ariel, too. Photo by L. M. Land

 

“The original film impacted me so much that I named my daughter Ariel.” Watkins continued.  “It made me love the ocean. If I saw this movie as a kid, I like to think I would still want to be a mermaid. This Ariel is the prettiest mermaid I’ve ever seen, and I would still be dressing up as Ariel on Halloween! And now I need a new tattoo of the new Ariel!”

Watkin’s daughter, Ariel, age 9, said “I like it better than the first one. The characters are more realistic and not just one skin color.  I like the new characters too. It’s a good movie!”

Two students at Kuungana Dance and Drum shared their views.

Makayla Terry, 11, said the movie “was very good”.  She explained that she “feels like it is different, with more colors and races.

It is good for kids to understand, different races can be leaders,” said Terry.

Terry also felt that Ariel is “outgoing and understanding to people, and forgiving.”

Terria Seaton, 6, summed our reviews up. “It’s cool that Ariel is Black! She is cool and a good singer.  I love it, it is 1,000 out of 1,000!

Thirteen-year-old Ma’khila Taylor of Flint saw “The Little Mermaid” with her aunt LaRhonda Stallings-Milton and loved it!

“The Little Mermaid” Q & A

Name: LaRhonda Stallings-Milton

Age: 51

City: Flushing

How good of a job do you feel Disney did on the movie “The Little Mermaid,” and why? From my perspective, I thought it was pretty good. The reason is because there was a lot of representation and diversity, and it didn’t get into things I was uncomfortable with. They have some cartoons that kind of oversexualize children, in my opinion, and exposing things that parents may not be ready to talk to kids about. But, this one seemed to be pretty appropriate.

I like that Disney does attempt at times to try to be representative and to have diversity. There are some things I’ve watched that seemed a little more forced, but this seems to be very natural, in my opinion.

Going into this movie did you know it was a controversial one, and do you feel it should have been? Why or why not?

I have Disney stocks. So, I keep up with things that are happening with Disney. I have read some of the controversy. I was aware of it. I really just wanted to support a young Black female in a movie that was a major movie.

If you saw this movie as a child, how do you think it would have impacted you and your life?

For someone my age, I certainly didn’t see as many African-American or Black female leads in cartoons when I was growing up. But I know that my nieces, who are much younger than I am, in their teens, tweens, twenties, they’ve seen Princess Ariel. They’ve seen other Disney characters and other people too. I think it’s helpful and representation matters.

Name: Ma’khila Taylor

Age: 13

City: Flint

How much did you enjoy “The Little Mermaid,” and why?

I enjoyed it because I got to get out the house and I got to be with my TT.

What was your opinion about Ariel overall?

I like her hair. I like the fact she was Black because I did grow up seeing a lot of white princesses. I like the fact she could sing, too.

What did you think of Ariel being Black and about the fact other races, colors and ethnicities were represented in the movie?

I liked the diversity in the movie. I thought it was pretty cool seeing all types of different races!

Debra Moore and her 5-year-old daughter Roquelle “Rocky” Moore also greatly enjoyed the movie. Photo by Tanya Terry.

Name: Roquelle “Rocky” Moore

Age: 5

City: Genesee

How much did you enjoy “The Little Mermaid,” and why?

It was good! I liked the romance and the style!

What was your opinion about Ariel overall?

It was good. She’s pretty.

What did you think about Ariel being Black and about the fact other races, colors and ethnicities were represented?

I liked it!

Name: Debra Moore

Age: 38

City: Genesee

How good of a job do you feel Disney did on the movie “The Little Mermaid,” and why?

I thought it was absolutely amazing. Some things they definitely improved on. Visually I think it was spectacular-the graphics and the ocean with all the coral. I’ve been scuba diving. It does look like that, minus the cartoon characters. It was quite colorful. What they added I thought was meaningful. You see a lot of the different ethnicities among the merpeople. Obviously, we don’t know what merpeople look like. So, that makes sense. But also you see the setting is clearly now set in Jamaica. When they go to the marketplace, that clearly looked Jamaican. I thought Ariel looked a little Jamaican-and the prince’s mom. Sebastian, the crab, had a Jamaican accent. It all seemed to cohere better. The other thing is the sailors seemed kind of Portuguese to me. That seemed realistic. So, I think this movie had more of an adult appeal.

Going into this movie did you know it was a controversial one, and do you feel it should have been? Why or why not?

Absolutely because before I go to movies I typically look at the reviews. There was definitely controversy about “everything looks really weird because they tried to change the cartoon into a live-action. It’s really hard to do, considering it was really cartoony when it came out in the 90s. It’s not an easy feat. They had to transition a lot of things. They had to change it. It couldn’t be the same movie. The big strength of it really was Halle Bailey’s voice. It was spellbinding! I cried when I heard it. I heard her burning with passion and longing, and I believed it!

If you saw this movie as a child, how do you think it would have impacted you and your life?

I think I get a little bit of perspective when I see my daughter watching it. I think she just sees things through a different lens. She doesn’t really see color the way we do. It doesn’t matter to her. It doesn’t have that meaning that it did for the older generation. I’d like to think it will continue like that-that races were mingle more and at least it won’t be a divisive as it used to be. It was just a really pretty movie for her. She just thought the mermaid was really pretty, and the music was beautiful!

I’m half white, and I’m half Singaporean. Singapore is pretty cosmopolitan, but ethnically it’s Chinese. I’m half Chinese, half white. That really spoke to me in this movie as well because the marriage of the merpeople and the land dwellers. It’s not a huge leap to think the races are coming together, too. I hope that message came through as well. It came through to me that you can have two types of people that are extremely different but they can still get along. They can even fall in love, like my parents do. It’s a 24-hour flight from United States to Singapore. They’re as far apart as you can possibly be! But somehow my parents found love with each other despite being so different. I think that’s kind of the Ariel and Eric story.

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