Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

“The Little Mermaid” review: Black princesses deserve better

Courtesy of IMDb

This summer, my TikTok “For You” page was filled with little Black girls watching “The Little Mermaid” trailer in awe or dressing up in mermaid-inspired outfits to see the movie in theaters.

It was impactful and healing to see the next generation of Black girls experience the representation that I never had as a kid. When Halle Bailey of the Radio Disney duo Chloe x Halle, was cast in 2019 – pre pandemic – I saw comment sections brimming with hate and hashtags that read #notmyAriel.

When the film was released in May, I worried the response would be the same, so I stayed away from the internet and didn’t plan to see it in theaters, but I marked my calendar for the movie’s September 6th release on Disney+. To my dismay, the movie was not at all what I was hoping for – it was worse. A lot worse.

We finally got a Black Disney princess who wasn’t a frog for half of the movie. Except, this time, she got her voice stolen and didn’t speak for most of the movie.

When will Black women get to play characters that don’t come with side effects or stipulations?

While this detail is true to the original film, as a remake, the film creators could have made more deliberate edits to the live-action version. They may have fought to have a Black Ariel, but they didn’t put in that same effort to effectively tell her story or show her personality. Ariel is the main character in the story, and we see that in the original film, but in the 2023 film, Ariel fades into the background.

Although fans criticized the live-action “Mulan” in 2020 for straying from its predecessor, “The Little Mermaid” stayed true to its roots, but somehow still lacked the charm and nostalgia that older generations were hoping for.

The few updates that were made occurred in the added songs, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which felt out-of-touch with the rest of the film. Manuel-Miranda is arguably one the best lyricists in his genre, but not every film soundtrack needs to sound like “Hamilton” or “Encanto.”

Not only were the modern updates unfitting, but two of the film’s biggest flaws were casting and animation.

While the film was lackluster, Bailey’s performance was its saving grace. The other characters, however, were forgettable. Prince Eric was portrayed by Jonah Hauer-King, but his character could’ve been played by anyone, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The same goes for Sebastian and Flounder.

Their characters in the film were awkward and too realistically animated. Fans were upset when Mushu didn’t make an appearance in the live-action “Mulan,” but if he would’ve looked like the sea creatures in “The Little Mermaid,” I wouldn’t want him in the film either. With today’s technology, they could’ve made the characters more visually appealing. Although people debated whether 2019’s “The Lion King” was live-action or animated, the animals in the film weren’t unsettling to look at, and that should’ve been a priority in “The Little Mermaid.”

The voice actors who played Sebastian and Flounder weren’t standouts either, and voice actors are just as important as on-screen actors. I mean, everyone knows Eddie Murphy’s voice from his lovable characters, like Mushu or Donkey from “Shrek,” without ever having seen his face.

Lastly, while I love Melissa McCarthy in every movie she’s ever been in, I don’t think Ursula was her calling. McCarthy felt too reserved to play Ursula. Not to mention, McCarthy isn’t a singer, and I feel sorry for the poor, unfortunate soul who cast her in the film.

The film, as a whole, was disappointing, but if I were 7-years-old seeing Halle Bailey jumping out of the water, flipping her locs, I’d believe it was the greatest movie ever made. But as a 20-year-old, I want more. Black girls at every age deserve more. We deserve representation, we deserve voices, and we deserve to be part of your world.


“The Little Mermaid” is now available on Disney+.


Design by Ariel Landry

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About the Contributor
Maleigh Crespo
Maleigh Crespo, Editor in Chief
Maleigh Crespo serves as the Maroon's Editor in Chief. Maleigh previously served as the Maroon's  Managing Editor for Print, Design Chief, Equity and Inclusion officer, and Op/Ed editor. When she’s not writing, she can be found listening to Taylor Swift on repeat, online shopping, or feeding the squirrels in Audubon.

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