When Disney announced late last week that singer and actress Halle Bailey had been cast as Ariel in the upcoming live action remake of The Little Mermaid, the first reaction of many fans, per The Inquisitr, was confusion, as the young actress’ name is very similar to that of veteran actress Halle Berry.
Another reaction soon followed on social media, one that was much uglier: Fans complaining that Disney, in casting an actress of color as Ariel, was somehow a betrayal of the original film, in which the mermaid heroine was white. Those expressing this viewpoint congregated on the Twitter hashtag #NotMyAriel.
It was a rehash of various controversies in recent years, in which high-profile movies, in the Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe franchises, especially, have gone out of their way to cast women and minorities in key roles. And it led to responses from many defenders of the casting, such as writer Roxane Gay on Twitter, who argued that such racial nitpicking is somewhat ridiculous, considering that mermaids aren’t real.
However, it soon became clear that at least some of those pushing the #NotMyAriel message were fake accounts.
Per The Irish Times, the original account pushing the backlash to the casting was a Twitter user named “Rebeccs,” who had argued that “Us white girls, who grew up with The Little Mermaid, deserved a true-to-color Ariel.” Her post, and subsequent ones, also included a photo of the DVD of the animated version of The Little Mermaid, as well as a photo of “Rebeccs” with her “half-black best friend.”
However, as pointed out by Twitter user and Buzzfeed employee Brandon Wall, the account and the photos on it were all fake and pulled from elsewhere on the internet.
This viral tweet complaining about the Little Mermaid casting being racist has a profile pic stolen from an Instagram model. The “half black best friend” pic is taken from god knows where, but shows up in a bunch of Pinterest BFF roundups pic.twitter.com/aYMwKf1XNl— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) July 4, 2019
Even the picture of the Little Mermaid box came from an old YouTube unboxing video, Wall discovered.
The “Rebeccs” persona’s Twitter account was soon suspended, but numerous dubious-looking Twitter accounts continued to spread a similar message into the weekend.
It’s unclear if the campaign was of foreign origin, or that it originated in 4chan or another such troublemaking online community, or from some other party. Naturally, it was also alleged in a YouTube video that Disney had faked the campaign themselves, although there’s no evidence that there was any truth to such a conspiracy theory.
The new Little Mermaid film, which Rob Marshall will direct, begins production in early 2020, and while there’s no official release date yet, we know that original composer Alan Menken will return, in order to write some new songs with Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda, per Playbill.