Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Diversity, Disney Style

Once again, this topic came from this question on Quora:
If Disney is making Ariel black, why aren't they making Prince Eric black as well?
My Answer:
“Disney believes in diversity. In 1997, Disney showed a production on the Wonderful World of Disney, with Brandy as Cinderella, and Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother. The Prince was mixed, Whoopie Goldberg played the Queen Mother and I forgot who played the King. Cinderella had a White stepmother, who was played by Bernadette Peters, and she had a black step sister and a white stepsister.
It is their belief that everyone should see themselves as that character, any character when they watch their movies”.
Oh, my goodness, where do I begin with this post?
Photo by P.Lynne Designs
Let’s start with a PSA, shall we?  As much as pains me to say this, there is more than one race in the world.  OK, let me take that a step further and not throw color into this discussion:  There is only one race, the human race.  We are all a mixture of different skin tones and hues. No one should say that their skin tone is better than another, but we do.
With that, let’s address the elephant in the room, Ariel is black, prince Eric is not.  I remember in a scene of the animated Little Mermaid, where there were different shades and sizes of mer-people swimming throughout the ocean, and they were not all white.  Some were brown, tan, and white.  Some were male and some were female.  Some were tall and skinny, while others were fat and chubby.  In other words, like our own world.
People like to see characters who look like them.  At first, the only thing that I could relate to from Disney was an old man in Song of the South, which sort of, okay, was a little on the racist side, but back in the 60s, they were racist.  I am going to call it out there.  Disney’s next attempt was a bunch of lions in The Lion King.  Sorry, but the only black voiced actors was James Earl Jones (who much to my happiness reprised his role in this year’s version) as Mufasa and Marge Sinclair (who passed away due to cancer) as Sarabi.  The rest were white actors, including Jeremy Irons as Scar and Mathew Broderick as Simba.  The last animated movie, that is in The Little Mermaid’s wheelhouse, was The Princess and the Frog where Tiana was black and Prince Lavigne was Mexican? Asian? Okay, some sort of dark tan color.  So, I can kind of see the criticism.  I also count Moana, who actually is Polynesian, but she is a woman of color. Ariel is a white Mermaid, this is what the imaginers saw when they first drew her, and that is who supplied her speaking and singing voice.
People are also creatures of habit.  We do not like change.  It is the same criticism that was given to the all-black cast in this year's Live-action (actually CGI-action) The Lion King with BeyoncĂ© and Donald Glover, and Aladdin with Will Smith as the Genie.  I am sorry that most people hated Will Smith for his portrayal of the Genie, but as one of his rules, The Genie cannot bring people back from the dead, and I guess people wanted Disney to bring Robin Williams back from the dead.
I like diversification.  It shows that the world is not as segregated as they want it to be.  You can possibly live in a world where you only deal with people of your own kind, but let’s face it, it is getting more impossible to do it.  Eventually, you need to come out of your house, get a job, go to the store, go to church, whatever, and mingle.  You can not ban people from doing what they want (see my rant about the woman who wanted to ban childless millennials from Disney Parks and most of the civil rights movement of the 1960s).
Look at it this way:  If you do not want to see this movie, any movie, you do not have to go.  Disney may suffer from it a little bit, and they may have a little drop in attendance because you did not buy a ticket, but you do not have to go, period. Your non-attendance will not shut down this company, who has dealt with far worse things (such as the loss of their fearless leader, Walt Disney in 1966).  After all, it is entertainment and the character is not based on a real person.  At least I do not think there are Mermaids in the ocean.  No one has discovered them yet.  This movie is not required for college credit, a credit for a religious course, and when you die, God is not going to judge you for not going to this movie.  He will judge you if you make some kind of racial slur towards the actress who will be playing her on social media or any other media.
I am going to see this movie and I am going to take my niece.  Why?  Because it will satisfy the little girl in me.  I always wanted more characters that look like me in the movies and on television when I was a child.  I am about to date myself, but in school, I took a school day picture where my mom gave me Cindy Brady’s famous curls, two ponytails with ringlet curls.  I also wanted to be Tracy Partridge, and I clapped very loudly when I saw Penny from Good Times and Tootie (Character’s first name is actually Dorothy) from Facts of Life, both who are black.
Look, Disney wants their customers happy.  They know where the money is coming from, and they know that white people are not the only ones who visit their parks and buy their merchandise.  Most companies know this.  We as the black business community have a hard time getting black people to buy from us. This is our biggest problem.  I will go into that at another time, I am getting off the subject.
People should be happy that Disney wants to diversify in their movies.  I know a lot of people do not like interracial couples, but I also believe this is Disney’s other reason to not make Prince Eric Black as well.  I remember reading several times in my life how people in the late 60s were upset because Captain Kirk kissed Lt. Uhura on the lips, and that the episode was banned until several years later when it was more acceptable.  The Jeffersons television show had an interracial couple named Tom and Helen Willis, who were Lionel Jefferson’s girlfriend (later wife’s) parents.  This happened in the 1970s.  There have been many times where interracial couples were a thing back then, but they still frown on today for some reason.
However, you take this post is up to you.  I want you to look at it with new eyes if you are on the fence about this whole Little Mermaid live movie casting situation, and it is not really a situation if you do not let it be.  It is a movie made in a different way by the same company that made the original and has a black mouse.  Think about it.  Mickey is a black mouse and people are okay with him.

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