Of all the commentary I’ve seen from the reaction to The Little Mermaid teaser trailer – particularly the videos of Black girls enraptured in pure joy while watching the trailer – my friend Joe said something incredibly profound that is 100% correct:
“Let them have this moment. You had yours.”
And, yes, the You he is speaking of is the white led, financed and engineered motion picture industry.
“You” have had an entire end run on the whole of this industry since it’s inception. The only time WE (Black girls, boys, our parents/grandparents/extended family/etc.) saw ourselves in “Your” stories was as inhumane caricatures and stereotypes until the 1950’s and 60’s. (The Birth Of A Nation, Buckwheat, Mammy & Stefan Fetchit ring a bell?) And only THEN you only bothered to capture a glimpse of our humanity via Sidney Poitier’s body of work and our emergence into tv work like the late great Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura in Star Trek
Then we busted doors down in the 1970’s and WE told OUR STORIES of life in the seedy underbelly that SYSTEMIC RACISM crafted for us via Sweet Sweetback, Shaft, Superfly and all the other “Blaxploitation” films. By the grace of God, we were also able to show you stories depicting our inner strength and steadfast determination to live as well. Examples include Claudine, Sounder and Cooley High among others.
The 80’s & 90’s caused You to see us as economically viable…as long as we made You laugh (see Eddie Murphy and the buddy cop comedies that came in the wake of 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop). We also took ownership of our own narratives via Spike Lee, John Singleton and countless other great Black film directors. Those voices spoke via celluloid as the new century dawned upon us.
But, save for maybe that soulful choir in Disney’s Hercules, our daughters and sons never got to see themselves front and center in an animated film. We, just like everyone else, plunked out $$$ at the movies for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty And The Beast, etc. So when we finally GOT an animated film where our little girls got to see themselves in their own likeness in 2009, she was turned ned into a frog for almost the entire story.
So, in light of that history, I’m with my friend Joe. Let us – and our Daughters – have this moment! Resist the urge to judge those videos. Shut down your so called “Christians Against Little Mermaid” FB pages (Yes. This is Real). Just sit with us in this moment. A live action Disney Princess is in the same Imago Dei of those little girls who are overflowing with joy.
Can’t you just be, please won’t you be, Part Of Our World?