Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” has generated a significant amount of criticism and sparked heated discussions among fans and critics alike. The highly anticipated film, which aims to reimagine the beloved animated classic, has faced scrutiny for various reasons, the most prominent one being casting choices.
One of the primary sources of criticism stems from the casting decisions for the film’s lead roles. The casting of Halle Bailey, a talented African-American actress, as Ariel drew both praise and backlash. While many applauded the diversity and representation in the casting choice, some voiced concerns over straying from the original character’s appearance. The backlash sparked discussions about racial representation and the extent to which artistic liberties should be taken in adaptations.
However, it seems that China is taking this hatred and criticism to a new level, by voting with its yuan, as the film bombs at the box office.
It’s no secret that both Disney and Halle Bailey have received racist backlash upon the announcement of the movie’s casting, but China’s government-affiliated The Global Times have decided to dedicate a whole editorial to it.
“The controversy surrounding Disney’s forced inclusion of minorities in classic films is not about racism, but its lazy and irresponsible storytelling strategy,” read the op-ed. “Many Chinese netizens said that like Snow White, the image of the mermaid princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales has long been rooted in their hearts and it takes a leap of imagination to accept the new cast.”
The editorial also doubted the intention behind Disney’s “political correctness”, and whether it is financial interests or actual concern for representation.
In its initial ten days of release in China, the film has only managed to accumulate a meager $3.6 million at the box office, marking it as the poorest-performing Disney live-action adaptation in the country.
Similarly, its performance in South Korea has been lackluster, with earnings of only $4.4 million as of June 4.
While box office analysts were aware of the potential challenges that “Little Mermaid” might encounter, they were left shocked by the magnitude of the negative reception and its consequential impact on the film’s performance.
Social media platforms in China have also become filled with negative reviews from audiences regarding the film.
According to CNN, the film received a score of only 5.1 out of 10 from users on Douban, a well-known Chinese movie review website. On Maoyan, a platform for movie reviews and box office tracking in China, one user expressed their confusion, stating that they were “puzzled” because the image of the Little Mermaid in their mind was that of a white character. And another user expressed their disappointment, saying, “The fairy tale that I grew up with has changed beyond recognition!”
This was followed up with “discriminatory comments about Bailey’s skin color”, per CNN.
Compared to China, however, the U.S. seems to be accepting the movie’s inclusion and representation with open arms. Since “The Little Mermaid” was ranked as the number two movie over the past weekend.