#NotMyAriel: A serious conversation on racism and capitalism

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The upcoming live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” brought the internet to a meltdown. All because Ariel will be interpreted by actress Halle Bailey, a Black woman.

The backlash was so significant that the trailer reached over 1 million dislikes as the #NotMyAriel hashtag took over Twitter from fans displeased with this casting. It is not that they dislike Bailey; they dislike a Black actress playing the role of a “white” character. We shouldn’t be experiencing this kind of controversy in 2022.

This debate that has people fuming behind their screens is nothing short of a marketing move for a megacorporation to promote their film. Disney expected the trailer to bother some people and satisfy others. Many of these corporations are profiting off nostalgia, promoting products that remind adults of their childhoods.

The problem is that back in earlier decades, when these adults grew up, racism was strongly present in entertainment. One way of reinforcing this racism was reducing the few Black characters in content to merely comical, satirical or foolish. As representation improved, we started to see Black characters that don’t fit these stereotypes. And because people grew up with this structural racism, they get upset when a nostalgic remake is more inclusive (AKA less white), going against their comforting memories.

Of course, it isn’t just a matter of ending social issues. Behind all of this are big corporations attempting to be inclusive to gain more consumers. It isn’t a coincidence that Disney actively strives to hide their racist past to maintain their welcoming and magical image. Amidst this, people are left to defend unconcerned billionaire companies in a monetized fight in the name of justice and equality.

What further proves that Disney couldn’t care less about antiracism is that they left their Black actress to fend for herself as the main target of all hate. The trending hashtag is a direct attack on Bailey, and Disney does little to change the focus of the hatred.

This is exactly what Disney wants; the less attention given to their actions, the less consequences they will face in the future. Thus, they are already preventing a possible substantial boycott, ergo, loss of profit.

Black actors shouldn’t be the target of hate because of the marketing strategies of rich white-dominated companies. The slavery relationship remains; Black people, solely for the color of their skin, are abused to line the pockets of rich white people.

But now, instead of putting shackles on, you expose them to the internet – things from the past repeat themselves. Slave owners claimed they were good to their slaves, just like corporations claim to meet the needs of minorities. Hiring people of color for the sake of having a mascot for their diversity is the new trend.

The racist reaction to the movie is problematic, but the racism stems from the deep roots of the companies themselves and the entire system on which our society is built. The fight for racial equality shouldn’t be supporting the perpetrators’ attempt to capitalize on inequality; rather, it should be about destroying those who created that inequality in the first place.

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Cris Vasconcelos
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