China’s backlash against Little Mermaid exposes Hollywood bind

China’s backlash against Little Mermaid exposes Hollywood bind. By Erin Hale.

Hollywood has a China problem.

The world’s second-largest economy has become one of the biggest markets for big-budget Hollywood films, but a racially-charged backlash against Disney’s The Little Mermaid is just the latest example of the price film studios can pay if they offend Chinese sensibilities.

Chinese state media and netizens have condemned the casting of Halle Bailey, who is Black, as Princess Ariel — echoing some people in the United States who have expressed anger that the Atlanta-born actress does not resemble the light-skinned character of the 1989 animated film or the 1837 fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. …



In an op-ed last month, The Global Times, an English-language Chinese tabloid known for its nationalistic coverage, accused Disney of turning “classic tales into ‘sacrificial lambs’ for political correctness” by casting non-white actors in classic tales. …

Traditional Chinese beauty standards emphasise pale skin and large round eyes, Zhang said, and some viewers – and government officials — want to see Chinese values reflected on the screen. …

Amid the negative press, The Little Mermaid has performed poorly at the Chinese box office, earning just $3.6m in the 10 days after its May 26 release, according to Artisan Gateway, an international film advisory. Live-action remakes of Disney classics typically gross between $40m to $85m in China

The original (1989):

Stephen Neil:

Even our enemies respect Western culture more than we do. Chinese and Arabs actually admire Western high culture, even as they are envious of its success. However neither has any time for Woke African-American anticulture.