The Little Mermaid bombs in China and South Korea amidst racist backlash

The Little Mermaid Racist Backlash

The Little Mermaid bombs amid racist backlash: Due to racial outcry over the choice of Black actress Halle Bailey for the part of Ariel, The Little Mermaid is being pulled from some international markets.

The film had the lowest performance of all of Disney’s live-action adaptations in China during its first ten days of release, earning just $3.6 million. The film is likewise having a difficult time in South Korea, where it has made $4.4 million as of June 4. According to insiders and box office analysts, Disney was aware that Little Mermaid might have difficulties. Still, it was taken aback by the severity of the backlash and its effects.

Citizens believe Disney’s “political correctness” is influenced by financial interests

Just before the film’s theatrical release in China, the government-affiliated The Global Times ran an editorial questioning Disney’s motives. The editorial read, 

“The controversy surrounding Disney’s forced inclusion of minorities in classic films is not about racism, but its lazy and irresponsible storytelling strategy,” stated the op-ed. “Many Chinese netizens said that like ‘Snow White,’ the image of the mermaid princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales have long been rooted in their hearts, and it takes a leap of imagination to accept the new cast.”

It further questioned Disney whether its “political correctness” is motivated by financial interests or genuine concern for the representation of minorities.

Director Rob Marshall explains he had no such agenda behind casting Halle Bailey

In the summer of 2019, Bailey earned the part after a lengthy audition process that involved hundreds of actresses. Explaining that the creators had no political agenda attached, director Rob Marshall told The Hollywood Reporter,  “She immediately set the bar so high that no one surpassed it. We saw every ethnicity. There was no agenda to cast a woman of color. It was really just, ‘Let’s find the best Ariel,’ and Halle claimed the role.”

Hollywood’s earnings in China have decreased noticeably since the outbreak. Fast X and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are both nearing the conclusion of their runs, with current totals of over $125 million and $78.8 million, respectively. These are respectable figures, although they are considerably lower than those of the prior movies in the franchises. In China, F8 (2017) and F9: The Fast Saga (2021) both made $217 million each, whereas Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) made $100 million. 

The extent of The Little Mermaid’s failure, though, stands out even against the overall context of diminishing China potential. 

“It’s disappointing,” says the Little Mermaid insider.

Aastha Soni

A cinephile with immense love for words and everything art. I have an inclination toward understanding human psychology but I prefer dogs over humans any day. I have an affinity for all kinds of music, except techno. Kind of an old soul, trying to tolerate today's typical "Gen Z mindset".