The pettiest people on the planet are racist. I know this because they consistently make headlines for doing very petty shit. They call the police when they spot (Black) people they don’t recognise in their neighbourhood. They get super mad at Meghan Markle for doing things like holding her husband’s hand. They have full-on meltdowns when supermarket Christmas adverts represent people of colour. The things that get them really riled up are so trivial, so utterly, ridiculously insignificant, that it makes a generation of so-called snowflakes look like hardy 10 foot icicles. Racists are offended by everything these days.
Currently, it’s Disney’s live action remake of The Little Mermaid that’s frazzling the brains of these wannabe victims. Ariel is played by Halle Bailey, who is one half of Chloe x Halle and – uh oh! – a Black woman. Obviously she has the talent to back up the casting choice, which is made abundantly clear as her angelic voice sings Part of Your World in the film’s teaser trailer. And, as a mythical aquatic creature with a scaly tail and the uncanny ability to belt underwater, there’s not a wealth of historical resources from which to determine what a photo-realistic mermaid should look like. But the racists are still livid.
Within two days, the trailer received 1.5 million dislikes on YouTube. While that was happening, a racist AI scientist got to work whitewashing the trailer, using CGI to turn, as one Twitter user put it, “the woke actor into a ginger white girl”, to match Disney’s original cartoon. Apparently, he’s planning to “fix” the entire film within 24 hours of its release when it comes out next year. Groups like “Christians against the Little Mermaid” were set up on Facebook, fake movie posters for “Da Lil Mermaid” featuring racist tropes began circulating the internet. Things reached screws-scattered-everywhere levels of unhinged when they attempted some reverse-representation gotcha moments: “Shall we remake Roots with an all-white cast?” Would Mel Gibson make a good Martin Luther King Jr?
Now, we could waste energy explaining why casting a white man to play a Black man who wasn’t dreamed up by Hans Christian Andersen in the 1800s is a false equivalence. Or how, after Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, one Black actor in a Disney princess remake is hardly an attack on white culture. Or even why, since their anger stems from not feeling represented, the film is trying to fix the very problem that has riled them up, just for a different demographic.
But you can’t reason with a racist. Because if there’s anything that lacks sound rationale, it’s deciding to hate people who look different to you so much that you’ll spend your time creating a revised CGI rendering of a film aimed at seven year olds. Racism is insidious, the root cause of so much pain and suffering both today and throughout history. But it’s also, from a purely ideological standpoint, ludicrously silly. As nonsensical as saying you love Walkers crisps but absolutely can’t stand Lay’s.
When the only thing racists have to be mad about is the colour of a mermaid’s skin, it simply pulls back the curtain to reveal how absurd it all is. Often, the real-world ramifications of racism are devastating. In this instance, it’s simply laughable. As The Little Mermaid backlash reaches new heights of insanity, the jokes write themselves. “Don’t threaten me with a good time” came the instant response to the proposed all-white remake of Roots. Anyone fancy watching an all-Black Lord of the Rangs?
Don’t confuse the laughter for apathy. The memes are funny, yes, but they’re also exposing the basic lack of common sense that fuels prejudice. Racism should be taken seriously, but there’s also value in revealing how nonsensical it is as a concept. And what better way to showcase its idiocy than by poking fun at middle-aged men crying over a children’s film? They don’t want to be part of our world, anyway.