On August 23, 2018 a press rumor leaked revealing Zendaya Coleman may be cast as Ariel in the upcoming live action remake of Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’. Social Media is ablaze over the possible casting of an African- American actress, in a role traditionally meant for a character with red-hair and European features. A possible new black princess leads to a public divide of polarizing thoughts and opinions.
Many are in favor of the change believing Disney is in need of more diverse casting. Kyler King, a 19-year-old Southern University IT volunteer shares, “I’m ok with that. I love Zendaya. She is an awesome person and a great actress.” 23-year-old Mass Communications Major, Ra’Lisa Smith from Alexandria, Louisiana adds, “In my opinion, I think that we need more black representation as far as cartoons and princess and queens. You know, to glorify the black woman because we don’t get enough attention in that light.”
Others do not feel the need for change. Such as 19-yeard old NyKera Dixon, an Accounting Major from Atlanta, Georgia. She explains, “I don’t really feel any type of way about it. I think that Zendaya will be a good lead. I don’t know why they would use a black woman, instead of a white woman because Ariel was white in the movie.”
Some commenters have expressed concern that a black Ariel will call for an all black cast. This was not the case in Disney’s Broadway musical of ‘The Little Mermaid’. It featured a diverse cast including a black King Triton, Ariel’s father, who was played by Norm Lewis; picked for his baritone voice. Ticket sales proved the theater’s casting did not put off audience seekers. Many Zendaya fans hope the movie will have the same effect.
Zendaya would not be the first black actress to star in a role meant for a white person. In August 2017, black actress Anna Diop received backlash for being cast as Starfire, an orange-skinned red-haired alien, in the Teen Titans live action remake. Her social media account was taken down as a result of the negative commentary. It has since been re-uploaded. Although once again in April 2018, when a set photo was leaked online, Diop was met with even more outrage. The outrage came from people of all races, even African Americans. Many complained she was the wrong skin tone, and too dark for the role; believing a lighter-skinned black actress would be more befitting for the character.
Smith shares more, “Was Starfire white from the beginning? How do we know what race was supposed to be depicted? It’s a cartoon. If that person is qualified and it’s what the producer or the director envisioned, then it doesn’t matter what tone of skin that they have.”
Whether Zendaya will play Ariel or not is a far ways off. Over the years, the Disney remake has gone through numerous changes in directors and casting. Until official announcements are made, only rumors and speculation are left for the public.