“She is a Black girl! They made Ariel into a Black girl!” On 15 September, Brut gathered video reactions of little American girls, filmed by their parents watching promotional excerpts from the new Disney film about the Little Mermaid character. The children seemed amazed to discover that their heroine was Black, just like them.
First, the video went viral on social networks and drew a few tears of emotion from the million viewers who had clicked “play”. But then the story changed tack: Ariel as a Black woman, played by Halle Bailey (The Color Purple, Let It Shine), had not won unanimous approval. The phenomenon has a name, “blackwashing”, which refers to the practice of choosing a Black actor to play a character not described as such in the original story.