Earlier this month, Disney shared a trailer for their new live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” and the fact that a black actress named Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel caused racists to lose their minds.
Now, I realize many of the people who were upset by Ms. Bailey’s casting probably don’t consider themselves racists and would be offended by that label. Fortunately, I don’t care what racists think.
Racists have been getting upset about a whole lot of stuff like this just lately. For example, racists are angry that the new Lord of the Rings series on Amazon has black and Asian actors playing elves and dwarves and whatnot, believing it to be some sort of betrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original vision. Given that Tolkien was famously asked by a Nazi Germany-based publishing house if he was Jewish and he replied with one of the classiest “screw-you” letters of all time, I doubt he would be too upset about the casting of this new show.
It’s tempting to write about how mermaids, elves, and dwarves are all fictional creatures and can therefore be played by anybody, or about how the original story of the little mermaid was a thinly veiled metaphor for Hans Christian Andersen’s unrequited love for another man, so if anything, the original little mermaid is a gay man.
I’m not going to do that, though. It’s already been done, and frankly, explaining to the racists why they’re wrong will never get you anywhere. Racists don’t engage in reason or good-faith arguments. If they did, they wouldn’t be racists.
It’s better to just sit back and enjoy the fact that Disney and Amazon are playing these dummies like fiddles.
Disney and Amazon are massive corporations that provide products and services I frequently enjoy. They are also — and I say this without hyperbole — evil.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the closest thing we have to a real-life Lex Luthor, an impossibly wealthy super villain who made his billions off the backs of the overworked and underpaid. Disney, meanwhile, seems to operate under the sole mission of buying out and hoovering up every studio available until all Earthly media is owned by the House of Mouse.
For both of these companies, it’s all about money. Disney and Amazon don’t do anything because it’s a nice thing to do. They do things that make money, and if the thing that makes money happens to be nice, that is completely incidental.
For example, Disney made the film “Song of the South” back in 1946, and then re-released it to theaters in 1956, 1972, 1980, and 1986. Since then, Disney has banished the film to their secret vault and will barely acknowledge that it ever existed.
“Song of the South” didn’t become racist sometime after 1986; it was problematic all along. But Disney realized at some point in the late 1980s that society had shifted to a point where the film was too problematic to be profitable and continuing to trade off the name could actually cost them money, so away it went.
Similarly, remember when Disney fired Gina Carano from “The Mandalorian” after she tweeted a bunch of weird extremist stuff? That was because someone ran the numbers and realized it was cheaper to fire her than keep her. I’d argue it was the right call; “The Mandalorian” is still a huge hit, and I’m somehow doubtful that Carano’s next project, in which she plays a Secret Service agent who crosses paths with that ne’er-do-well Hunter Biden, will achieve the same level of success as the Star Wars extended universe.
All of this is to say that Disney and Amazon know exactly what they’re doing, and it all comes down to money.
The moment I heard that a black actress had been cast as Ariel, I knew it would be a huge controversy. If I knew that, I guarantee you Disney knew it, too. They also knew that the racist outrage over the decision would prompt endless articles on the internet, thereby getting this movie in front of people who otherwise don’t pay attention to live-action Disney movies (like me).
They also knew that a lot of people who never would have watched this movie to begin with are now going to make a point to watch it just to stick it to the racists.
And by doing all that, Disney has found a way to turn their soulless cash-grab remake into a cultural flashpoint while also coming across as progressive.
Let me be clear: I am certainly in favor of colorblind casting. Ms. Bailey is an established actress with a slew of Grammy nominations, and I have no doubt she’s an excellent choice for “The Little Mermaid.” I’m just not sure if doing the right thing for cynical reasons means that it’s still the right thing to do.
Either way, Disney and Amazon can thank these hateful idiots for providing the kind of advertising that you can’t even buy.
So what will be the next major outrage in our stupid, endless culture war?
Oh, I’m sure we’ll find out next month.