Criticism of ‘The Little Mermaid’ Triggers Racism Concerns

the little mermaid controversy
the little mermaid controversy
Credit: The Walt Disney Company (Korea) Ltd.

There is growing concern about how Disney’s live-action musical film The Little Mermaid is being received in South Korea.

The movie has become a target for harsh criticism, and the media has also played a role in fueling the controversy. For example, SBS recently published an article titled “Backlash Against ‘Black Mermaid’: Appearance Ridiculed, Ratings Drop on Day One.”

The article highlights that the film has been flooded with one-star ratings and derogatory comments on movie websites and social media platforms. These comments reflect strong resentment towards the portrayal of a black mermaid and include harsh criticisms of Halle Bailey’s appearance, using extreme terms like ‘burnt fish,’ ‘black mermaid,’ and ‘sea monster.’

the little mermaid controversy
Credit: The Walt Disney Company (Korea) Ltd.

However, the controversy seemed to die down after the world premiere screening of The Little Mermaid in North America on May 8th. There has been a wave of praise for Halle Bailey’s exceptional acting and singing skills as Ariel, as well as for the film’s stunning underwater visuals and the representation of racial diversity through the seven princesses from different continents.

Nevertheless, South Korea is seeing a troubling trend of racially discriminatory evaluations of the movie.

One Korean moviegoer expressed their frustration, saying, “It’s true that there were casting controversies in other countries too, but only Koreans have been mocking the actress for over four years, even leaving malicious comments on their personal vlogs. Foreigners are also questioning why Koreans are leaving such negative comments about The Little Mermaid, and Korea is now gaining a reputation as a racist country.”

Another Korean user stated, “This is definitely going to make headlines in big media outlets like the New York Times, CNN, and BBC. Korea is, like, getting so much attention these days, and racial discrimination is, like, a really touchy subject. Everyone’s going crazy debating about The Little Mermaid. If this whole awful trend keeps going, it’s gonna seriously damage Korea’s reputation. “

There were also reactions like, “The combination of ‘black’ and ‘mermaid’ sounds strange. Mermaids are not humans. They are imaginary beings… The more I think about it, the more I can’t understand why the actress’s race in the mermaid role is so important.”

People have differing opinions about Ariel in Korea, and it’s important to wait for the box office results and feedback from moviegoers to get a clearer picture of the public’s response since it’s still the film’s opening day.

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