Why I wanted to be part of that world.
At 5 years old,The Little Mermaid was the very first Disney movie I ever remember seeing in a theater and I instantly became obsessed. To this day if you ask my roommates, one can still routinely hear me sing my own cabaret medley version of every song from that movie. There is nostalgia there. Ariel along with Princess Jazmyn shaped the architype of what it meant to be a desirable young woman and even more desirable… a princess.
From an outside perspective royalty is glamourous, indulgent, sparkly and exciting. Our first red flag should be that even most Disney princesses are trapped and trying to escape. As we’ve woken up to the reality of what creates a royal life, (supremacy, colonization, exploitation, slavery, murder, genocide, incest, extractionism, etc) how many of us would really want to be part of that world? I wanted a tiara, not blood on my hands.
The Death of a queen and the birth of a black Mermaid has everyone re-examining our nostalgic endoctrinations. As far as make-believe, which may I remind you the Little Mermaid is, the arguments over skin color are ignorant excuses for racist people to continue being racist. No one is arguing over the believability of a half-fish half-woman creature growing legs after taking a potion from a half-octopus sea witch. The end.
How this new version ironically coincides to the death of a monarch who spanned multiple generations, rebranding herself from the young mother early “feminist”, to wise nostalgic grandmother archetype, is an ode to a dying paradigm. It’s a mixed bag. It’s what we know but does that make it something we should feel any nostalgia towards? I’m realizing that my sense of nostalgia about royalty comes from a broken place.
While the new Ariel feels like a win and is very healing for a broken “little Abi,” my adult Abi is still suspicious of the long term effects of Disney princesses on all little girls. Something in this feels like a ploy to get women of my generation who have that deep-rooted nostalgia but also adore characters like Eep in the cruedes, (although all Pixar movies are also still centered around whiteness) to steer our children back to the original Disney model instead of embracing new stories where women don’t need to be saved and blackness is beautiful.
Beyond having one black leading character, why can’t white people have the same nostalgia with a mostly black cast the way that I and so many others grew up having towards these movies with all white casts? Ask yourself, if it’s all make believe anyway then what is the agenda against this?