“‘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.”
Trevor Noah called out the racist backlash over the upcoming live action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” after the first trailer was released with Halle Bailey in the title role.
Bailey plays Ariel in the new film, something which sparked hateful commentary from those who don’t think the fictional character should be played by a Black actress. Though the new footage has been viewed more than 18 million times in less than a week, it also pulled in more than a million dislikes as well.
“Really people, we’re doing this again?” exclaimed Noah on Thursday’s new episode of “The Daily Show.” “‘She looks nothing like the original!’ Nothing like? They both have the tail, they both have the red hair.”
“Once again a bunch of internet racists are upset that a fictional character is being played by a Black person, and honestly I don’t know what the big deal is,” he continued. “You guys realize that Nemo was Black too, right? Yeah, that whole movie was about a fish who can’t find his dad. Calm down, calm down, I can say that because my dad left and he’s white, so who’s racist now?”
Calling the criticism “so ridiculous,” Noah then joked that “of course The Little Mermaid is Black.”
“Everyone whose name starts with Lil’ is Black. Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ Nas X, Lil’ Kim,” he cracked. “Honestly, if you heard there was a woman named Lil’ Mermaid you’d just assume she was on a track with Cardi B. Wet Ass Flippers.”
Noah then pointed to Black mermaids already existing in “The Little Mermaid” canon, thanks to the 1992 animated series of the same name which revolved around Ariel’s life before the movie.
“Look, if we had more time we could talk about how Disney already created a Black mermaid 30 years ago and nobody cared, or how there’s still plenty of white princesses for little girls whose dream it is to be in a monarchy,” he said. “And let’s not forget, you can still watch the original ‘Little Mermaid.’ It”s not like if you try to turn it on Mickey’s gonna jump out of the screen and be like, ‘You’re racist, haha!'”
While he defended Bailey’s casting, he also couldn’t resist a quick knock on the story behind the film — which, of course, is about a young mermaid who signs away her voice to become human and pursue a land-loving prince.
“I hope this scandal doesn’t overshadow the rest of the movie,” said Noah. “‘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.”
During an interview with Variety in August, the 22-year-old “Do It” singer revealed that her grandparents encouraged her by sharing their own experiences with racial discrimination after she received a barrage of online hate for her role.
“It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,'” Bailey shared.
She also noted that her younger self might have felt more confident in her skin to see the original animated version of Ariel as a person of color.
“What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything,” Bailey explained. “Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us.”
Directed by Rob Marshall, the new movie swims into theaters May 26, 2023.