Lesson Plan

Casting of 'The Little Mermaid' Brings Pride and Prejudice

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GRADE LEVEL: Elementary School, Middle School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Speaking and Listening, Language

Controversy about Casting Decision of African-American as Ariel

In July 2019, it was announced that Halle Bailey, an African-American actress and singer, would play the leading role of Ariel for the upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. There has been some controversy about this casting decision. Some critics questioned why an African-American actress was chosen for the role because, according to them, the character should be White; the 1989 version of Ariel was a White, red-headed character. Some detractors even began using the hashtag #NotMyAriel on social media to express their negative opinion about the casting choice.

At the same time, many praised and applauded the decision to cast a Black woman as Ariel. Artists instantly started to draw depictions of Ariel as a Black mermaid. As someone posted on Twitter, "For a little Black girl who grew up obsessed with the 1989 movie. THIS IS A DREAM! I can't wait to wallpaper every inch of my belongings with images of Halle as Ariel." This will be the first time a theatrically-released Disney film has cast a woman of color as a princess in a traditionally white role.

People are Polled about the Casting Decision of Ariel

A few days after the announcement of Halle Bailey to play the role of Ariel, a Morning Consult/The Hollywood Reporter poll found that 60% of the adults surveyed who were shown a picture of the actress supported Bailey’s casting and 17% opposed the decision.

About this Lesson Plan

This lesson for elementary and middle school students, grades 3–6, provides an opportunity to learn about the casting decision of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, reflect on the lack of diversity of Disney princesses and consider the general importance of diversity and representation.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will explore the significance of a recent casting decision made by the director of The Little Mermaid.
  • Students will reflect on the lack of diversity of Disney princesses.
  • Students will consider why diversity and representation in different forms of media are important and how they impact people.