Written by Emma Jones
Almost every little girl has a favorite princess. Even in college, most people probably still have an opinion about who their favorite princess is and why.
For most of us, it was easy to see ourselves represented in the official Disney princess lineup growing up (Yes, there are official and unofficial princesses.) The Disney Princess franchise was started in 2000 and included 10 princesses, three of which were POC (princesses of color).
Today, the lineup includes 12 official princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida and Moana. Five of the current princesses are POC. However, Disney is releasing a new live-action version of “The Little Mermaid,” featuring Black lead Halle Bailey as Princess Ariel.
Ariel was my favorite princess when I was little. I liked that she was a mermaid; that was about my only reasoning. It was also not hard for me to project myself onto her character because she looked like me.
Since the trailer for the new “The Little Mermaid” was shown at the D23 Expo on Sept. 9, my social media has been flooded with videos of young Black girls reacting to the new version of a beloved princess that looks like them. I won’t lie and say I haven’t teared up a few times watching these.
I have, however, also seen a few critiques of Bailey’s casting as Ariel, people saying things such as ‘it doesn’t make sense for a Black lead to play a character in a Danish fairy tale.’ To that I say, it does not matter because she is a mermaid and it is a fairy tale. Why does it matter that a fake mermaid from a fake European story is not European looking? Critics using this logic must also hate the original 1989 animated version of “The Little Mermaid,” because it is nothing (and I mean nothing) like the original fairy tale.
Something I always took for granted when I was little was the representation of girls who looked like me in the movies I loved, a luxury that many people my age did not have. Disney’s first official Black princess, Tiana, was not introduced until the release of “The Princess and the Frog” in 2009 (and even then, she was green for most of the movie). It makes me incredibly happy that a younger generation is getting another Black princess to feel represented by.
Representation in the entertainment industry has grown by leaps and bounds, but there is always more that can be done for people to feel more represented in the movies and shows they love.