Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” has garnered attention in China due to its record-low box office performance, which has been attributed to the controversy surrounding the “forced inclusion of minorities.” While the movie had a strong opening weekend in the United States, it has faced a different reception in certain foreign markets.
According to reports from The Hollywood Reporter, the film has encountered significant backlash in select international markets, largely driven by racist criticism aimed at the casting of Halle Bailey, a Black actress, in the lead role of Ariel. The backlash against what is perceived as “forced diversity” in major studio productions seems to have escalated in countries like South Korea and China.
In an eyebrow-raising editorial published by The Global Times, a government-affiliated outlet in China, prior to the movie’s release, it stated, “The controversy surrounding Disney’s forced inclusion of minorities in classic films is not about racism, but its lazy and irresponsible storytelling strategy.” The op-ed further explained that many Chinese netizens expressed difficulty in accepting the new cast, as the image of the mermaid princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales has long been deeply ingrained in their hearts, requiring a significant leap of imagination to embrace the new portrayal.
While “The Little Mermaid” has received generally positive reviews, holding a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, certain aspects of the film have faced criticism. However, Bailey’s performance as Ariel has been universally praised.
In terms of box office numbers, “The Little Mermaid” has struggled in China, grossing a mere $3.6 million in its first 10 days of release. This marks the poorest showing among all live-action Disney adaptations in the country. Similarly, the film has earned $4.4 million in South Korea through June 4.
“The Little Mermaid” tells the beloved story of Ariel, a vibrant and adventurous young mermaid who yearns to explore the world beyond the sea. As the youngest and most rebellious daughter of King Triton, Ariel becomes infatuated with Prince Eric during her visits to the surface. While mermaids are prohibited from interacting with humans, Ariel follows her heart and strikes a deal with the nefarious sea witch Ursula, which grants her the opportunity to experience life on land but jeopardizes her life and her father’s kingdom.
Despite the international controversy, the movie is currently playing in theaters, inviting audiences to embark on Ariel’s enchanting journey.
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