Let me start off by saying that in no way am I suggesting that the casting for the new live-action edition of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is wrong, and that Chloe Grace Mortez isn’t perfect for the role. I am actually pretty excited to see how she plays one of my favourite characters. What I am questioning however, is why Universal can’t see the benefits of giving her red locks and the negative undertones that making her blonde could have on young girls.
Now I know I am a little biased being a redhead myself, but I actually feel that that gives me a better understanding of how this will make young redheads feel. I do want to emphasise though, that I do completely understand that the production team has chosen to not tell the Disney adaption of the story, but rather are reverting back to the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. And yes, in that edition the mermaid is in fact blonde. But since when do you have to stick to every single bit of a story? The whole point of recreating stories over and over is to adapt it into new and relevant ways. At least that was the industries response to the outrage following the reveal of Spider-Man’s new Mary-Jane, earlier this week. Funny how that inspiring argument isn’t applied to us freckly gingers. Because we don’t experience our own discrimination or get bullied relentlessly in the playground. Oh, and let’s not forget all those other fictional redheads we have to relate to in the media, remember? Oh wait.
It’s time that people stop forgetting that diversity isn’t just about race, sexuality or gender and start trying to make young girls feel good about themselves before it embeds a dangerous message into them, a message that we already see too much of today. Seriously, at the cost of putting a wig on an actress, isn’t it worth making little girls that fear their differences feel good about themselves? It won’t make the adaption any less dark or different to Disney’s adaption, so what difference does it make to you Universal?
Obviously I am not suggesting that Universal are purposefully trying to upset anyone. I don’t think they sat down to decide how they were going to offend people with their new movie, but I do think that the fact it was overlooked is pretty upsetting. For years people came up to me and asked me why my ‘hair was so bright’ while girls singled me out because my skin was freckly and different to theirs. In hindsight I know none of those things matter, but when you’re young it’s hard to see past what you initially see.
I really mean it when I say that Ariel’s red hair helped me feel better about myself while teaching me that beauty isn’t just one particular thing. Seeing a story centred around a beautiful redheaded princess changed my entire childhood. I am really struggling to understand what’s so difficult about throwing a wig on an actress in order to help a new generation of redheads feel the same way as I – and many other redheads did – when they get to experience this magical story… which was pretty damn fabulous by the way.