Halle Bailey is a Black actress starring as Ariel, a traditionally white character, in the upcoming 2023 live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid“. This has caused people online to attack Bailey unjustly saying she was only cast due to her skin color.
Despite what color somebody’s skin is, or where they’re from, we all have one thing in common: we’re all human. Any human should be able to portray a character free of backlash as long as they are qualified and work hard to achieve that position.
Being qualified means possessing an extensive knowledge of the character, having experience in acting and earning the right to portray the character based on talent. According to IMDb, Bailey has 17 acting credits to her name as well as many credits in music and singing. This makes her more than qualified to play Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”.
The really confusing part of the situation is the movie hasn’t even been released. The people upset about Bailey’s casting are more worried about the character’s race and the actress’s skin color than they are about her performance in the film.
I remember when it was announced Zoë Kravitz had been cast as Catwoman in “The Batman”. People had a similar reaction and weren’t willing to give the young actress a chance. However, after the film was released, many people, including myself, thought Kravitz had an excellent take on the character, which had nothing to do with what she looked like.
Race has become such a large subject in our everyday lives that people are starting to forget actors and actresses should be judged based on their performance and not on the color of their skin.
Similarly, the job of a casting director is to cast the person most qualified for the job, and I’m willing to bet Bailey gave an excellent audition that earned her the part as Ariel.
The only time when the color of a person’s skin should be considered when casting for a film is when their culture is deeply rooted into the character and their surroundings.
An example of this would be the character of Black Panther. Black Panther is a character deeply rooted in his culture, and it would not make sense for a white actor to portray him as his culture is predominantly Black. Doing so would be called color-blind casting which is when a character is cast without regard to race or ethnicity.
I have seen some people on the internet argue they won’t be able to identify with the character if they are portrayed by a Black actor. However, this argument holds no weight because Black people have been forced to identify with traditionally white characters their whole lives. Hollywood is dominated by white characters, which includes some of the most popular movies, so Black people have had to identify with these characters if they want to enjoy many films.
This further proves people are more concerned with skin color than they are with the characters performance. I remember going to see “Black Panther” in theaters when it first came out. Despite not being a part of the same culture, I could connect and identify with the main character because he was human and had universal human experiences such as grief, opposition and conflict.
I encourage anybody who has already formed an opinion on Bailey or any actor or actress to hold off on voicing that opinion until they have seen the movie. If Bailey gives a good performance, then she deserves to be recognized for that performance. If Bailey gives a bad performance, then constructive criticism is good, but the color of her skin should have nothing to do with it.