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Progressive ‘Little Mermaid’ Not Woke Enough (UPDATED)

HuffPo, NY Times and Vulture demand more from Disney's live-action remake

Disney did what Disney does in 2023 when it came time for a new “Little Mermaid” film.

The mega studio turned the saga’s white heroine into a black one, impressively portrayed by actress Halle Bailey. Some of the original film’s lyrics got the boot, presumably because they didn’t align perfectly with modern mores.

And, in a critical sequence not to be spoiled here, Ariel rides to the rescue instead of her male beau.

The Little Mermaid | Official Trailer

Those measures match Disney’s current ethos, a brand shift that has had punishing economic consequences. And yet, once again, the reaction is similar to past efforts.

It’s not woke enough.


That cry came from The New York Times’ review of the film. Critic Wesley Morris’ starts his review on a bizarre note, bemoaning the lack of “kink” in a family-friendly tale. He later dubs the film “timid and reactive,” 

The colorization hasn’t led to a racialized, radicalized adventure. It’s not a Black adaptation, an interpretation that imbues white material with Black culture until it’s something completely new; it’s not “The Wiz.” It’s still a Disney movie, one whose heroine now, sigh, happens to be Black.

The critic’s most intriguing comment comes at the end, He praises Awkwafina’s singular musical moment, playing Scuttle the bird, as fresh and messy, but he accidentally reveals where wokism too often leads.

This is a witty, complex, exuberant, breathless, deeply American number that’s also the movie’s one moment of unbridled, unabashed delight. And I can’t wait to see how Disney’s going to apologize for it in 34 years.

HuffPo similarly snubs the movie for not doing enough to fight “systemic racism.”

“The Little Mermaid” goes out of its way, literally incorporating a whole new sequence, to show both Ariel and Eric experiencing and engaging with a Black humanity that is foreign to each of them, but stops short of actually dealing with that.

This is all easy to write off as expected Disney gloss, except that the studio made a huge diversity push around this movie, making it seem like it was going to deepen Ariel’s identity in a new way. Instead, Blackness and the diversity buzzwords the marketing machine peddled around for months are mere set pieces in a story that is still confined inside a fundamentally white gaze.

The HuffPo piece references a similar think piece from the left-wing Vulture. That article, according to HuffPo, boasts this withering line:

“This ‘Little Mermaid’ only provides the skin of progress, not the bone, marrow, sinew, and guts necessary to change a story on a deeper level.”

Not woke enough. Again.

It rarely is, of course. “Booksmart,” the ultimate achievement in woke comedy, similarly got pummeled by some far-Left critics.


Yet HuffPo hints at the larger problem here. The site’s article slams similarly woke reboots like “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” and the recent “Fatal Attraction” series.

Those projects ripped the core elements from the original stories, leaving content that’s flavorless and dull.

That’s the woke effect. Yet the sites can’t make the larger connection between freedom-snuffing woke and mediocre content.

UPDATE: The Disney film is now under attack for allegedly erasing slavery in the film’s Caribbean setting. Marcus Ryder, chair of Britain’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, blasted the film on his blog.

“I do not think we do our children any favours by pretending that slavery didn’t exist … Setting the fantastical story in this time and place is literally the equivalent of setting a love story between Jew and Gentile in 1940 Germany and ignoring the Jewish holocaust.”

Ryder also questioned why two white men, director Rob Marshall and writer David Magee, were so critical to the film’s creation given the film’s diversity mandates.


  1. Every time they capitalize the B for Black and not W for white, they’re showing real diversity and not playing the race card at all. No, no virtue signalling at all.

  2. These critics won’t get paid if they don’t write the stuff they do. Each one has to be more inventive with their invective than the others or they will wind up on the street.
    However, look on the bright side, its a chance to see Halle Berry and you can never go wrong doing that.

  3. We are dealing with religious fanatics here, nothing less. Understand that from the get, expect that if their lips and tongues move, you will get nothing that is not simply obeisance to their ferociously angry god, and all the prices start to fall into place.

  4. “Those projects ripped the core elements from the original stories, leaving content that’s flavorless and dull.”

    Who knew that White original characters are actually a good fit of the material.

  5. What is it with leftists’ obsession with the word “gaze”? The male gaze, the white gaze…apparently it keeps them up at night knowing that certain demographics of people have functioning eyeballs.

    What really gets me about the race-swapping of Ariel is that the filmmakers actually give us a perfectly good explanation for it, by setting the movie in the Caribbean. And Disney could’ve defended the race-swap that way, by explaining that the change of setting spiced the movie up and made it more fresh, and the ethnicities had to be changed to fit that new setting. But of course they just called people racist instead. (Oh, and despite most of the cast being black now, the evil villainess Ursula is white as a sheet, because of course she is.)

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