16 years ago I got on stage for Star Search at my high school and sang Part of Your World -- you know, that famous song that Ariel sings in The Little Mermaid.
I slapped together a mermaid costume, and sang my little heart out.
I went to an almost 100% white high school and grew up in a town that is 95% white -- and not one person said to me, "MJ, you can't sing that song because you're half black and Ariel is white." Not one person batted an eye when I got up on stage and belted out a Disney song that speaks to millions of children worldwide, because it's a song, and nobody cared about the skin color of the person who was singing it -- although I did get scolded for "exposing my midriff."
Look, I've been doing "cool" and "unconventional" things that have now become mainstream for years. Outspoken, conservative black women? Move over Candace Owens. Dating attractive, successful white dudes? Whatever, Serena. Being black Ariel from the Little Mermaid? I'm excited for you, Halle, but... Yawn. Been there. Done that.
All of these "cool" and "unconventional" things are just me living my life. Speaking of living my life, as an adult, I simply don't have time to keep up with who Disney is casting in the latest remake of my favorite childhood movies. And to be totally honest, I didn't even know who Halle Bailey was -- at first I thought someone said Halle Berry, and I thought, damn, I know she still looks good, but isn't she a little old to be playing a 16-year-old mermaid?
In fact, when Disney announced who the next Little Mermaid was going to be, a majority of the adults in the world shrugged their shoulders and went on with their day. They were worrying about how to get their kids to and from soccer practice, which bills they needed to shuffle around this month, or, like me, had no idea who this girl was, but were mildly excited that they'll get to see a movie from their youth in theaters again.
Where then, did all of this outrage about Ariel come from?
Simple. It was fabricated.
If you Google "Ariel" or "The Little Mermaid" you'll be bombarded with pages of articles reporting alleged "outrage" from all these "racists" who are not just mortified, but who are actually coming after you with Triton's trident because their beloved cartoon mermaid has gone from a ginger to a, well, just re-arrange the letters in ginger...
In fact, #NotMyAriel was even trending on Twitter, with over people 100,000 tweeting their outrage at the people who are outraged about the casting. Since I didn't know how to fill a 4-Day weekend, I decided to see spend some time perusing Twitter and see for myself. After digging through some 75 tweets, it was seemingly impossible to find anyone who is actually mad that Ariel isn't white. What I found instead, was a bunch of people who are angry at people who are allegedly angry that Ariel isn't white.
I'm not quite sure if this is comical, or pathetic. My gut tells me the latter.
BET wrote an article titled, "Racists Are Big Mad That A Black Girl Is Playing Ariel In ‘The Little Mermaid.'" People were so "big mad" that out of approximately 126 million active Twitter accounts, BET was able to provide precisely 6 tweets on how big and mad "the racists" are. Two of the tweets came from non-white people, 2 came from accounts with less than 10 followers, and the one account that seemed to cause the most furor amount the interwebs was from a user named "Rebeccs" who said, "Us white girls, who grew up with The Little Mermaid, deserved a true-to-color Ariel. Disney, you made a huge mistake by hiring Halle Bailey. This is going in the TRASH," which was followed by supposed user then throwing the Little Mermaid into the garbage.
Rebeccs, shortly thereafter, possibly became the most hated person on the internet -- the issue of course, is that Rebeccs is a classic troll. The user's photo was fake and the video was pulled from a YouTube video. As someone who has done marketing for a living for over a decade, I can't help to think that this was the ultimate publicity stunt pulled off by Disney. What better way to boost ticket sales than by stirring up a fake controversy?
Mermaids aren't real. They are mythical, made-up creatures. They don't have a race, or a gender, a religion, or a sexual preference. Literally, the Little Mermaid is fake -- and so is the outrage surrounding it. It's another faux fury story perpetrated by people who have an ideological investment in the notion that America is a terrible, racist country -- so racist, in fact, that even made-up mermaids can't be any race but white.
Stop getting worked up over fake social media stories. Stop being fake outraged. Stop believing the hype. Stop living in a constant state of offense. Stop blaming fake racism because it detracts from fighting real racism.
16 years ago I was a black Little Mermaid, and everything turned out just fine. I do think a black Ariel is a little bit of a stretch though. For the record, no black woman out there is actively trying to get her hair wet. Also, I'm beginning to believe that Sebastian was right. At this current point in our history, I think things might actually be better under the sea.