“…a lady can have a fin for a butt but not melanin.”
Any other time of the year, I wouldn’t be a proponent of hiding your true self, slapping on a face of bargain brand cosmetics (that you know no one was “born with”), and conforming to someone else’s image.
But, at Halloween? I’m ALL FOR IT!
I’ve always loved dressing up and getting into a character! There is a freedom in expressing and expanding on the “you” everyone else usually sees and borrowing other characteristics that resonate with you. For all I know, I may have been a drag queen in a previous life. Then, again, as Mama Ru (Paul) says, “we’re all born naked, and the rest is drag!”
One childhood costume season, my mom fulfilled one of my Disney princess fantasies and made me a beautiful Belle dress. As you can see from the picture below, I LIVED that fantasy to the fullest that night! (Thank you, again, mom!)
One of my other favorite Disney characters was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I never portrayed her, but I did learn to play “Part of Your World” on piano, so I could “brag” about my “gadgets and gizmos a-plenty” and dare to dream that I could be “part of that world” of the accepted kids at school.
This year, Disney announced a new live action version of that little mermaid’s tale (premiering in May 2023). In this version, Disney gave the reprised protagonist a makeover and more melanin: they cast a black actress, Halle Bailey, for the title role.
“She’s brown like me,” one girl said shyly, still processing what she saw.
“They made a black Ariel!” another girl exclaimed, unable to stand still in her excitement.
Twitter users also took jabs at the new mermaid. One user even used artificial intelligence to “fix” a clip of Bailey to make her white. Twitter suspended his and another user’s account for the behavior.
TikTok hasn’t been immune to the viral hatred and controversy either. One anti-black Ariel user even states that they should remake Roots (the miniseries based on true and horrific events of black slavery in the U.S.) with an all white cast.
In her true fashion, TV show host and comedian Amber Ruffin provided her own comedic stance on the black Ariel controversy in one of her “HOW DID WE GET HERE?” segments.
“There’s only one good reason to be mad at Ariel,” she explains, “and that’s the fact that she is constantly bragging about all her thingamabobs!” The studio crowd erupted with laughter.
Ruffin then looks the camera to her right dead in the lens, and with a principal-grade sternness, she continues, “Oh really? You got 20? Well, Ariel, some people only have a single thingamabob, so check your thingamabob privilege!”
Later, she continues, “So now, we all know the problem, right? The problem is an entertainment industry run by white people who want to see themselves on TV and viewers who believe that a lady can have a fin for a butt but not melanin…”
She then clarifies how the entertainment industry needs to change to fill in the “empathy gap” and how employing more black actors would actually be good for business.
Another comedian and political commentator, Trevor Noah, also weighed in on the matter on his daily show.
“I don’t deny that it must’ve been amazing for any redhead little girl to see The Little Mermaid,” he stated, “It must’ve been amazing. It is a beautiful experience, but the movie’s still there. You get what I’m saying? The movie’s not gone…You can still watch it, and you can enjoy it. I do all the time.” The crowd chuckled.
He continued to dismantle the disputes against a black Ariel, including the argument that “it’s not about racism; it’s about realism.”
“I hope this scandal,” he said, “doesn’t overshadow the rest of the movie. The Little Mermaid is a beautiful story about a young woman changing her core identity to please a man. Let’s not forget about that, people.”
What are my thoughts? Well, some of you will see this Halloween, but to everyone, I’ll say this: I was never questioned for being a black Belle or dressing up in my mom-made Jasmine outfit among white friends, and I won’t let anyone question my costume this Halloween either. While no community (not even our little city in Northern Michigan) is immune to the racism and violence against black people (which does make me nervous), we have a choice: choose fear or courage.
I’m choosing courage.
Thank you for listening.