People Having Meltdowns Over 'The Little Mermaid' Need to Get a Grip
There's a big market for rage on the internet, but it's not all bad.
A few days ago, Disney released a teaser trailer for its live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, starring Halle Bailey as Ariel. As far as teasers go, it was standard fare. For 55 seconds, an orchestral version of “Part of Your World” played in the background, with glimpses of Bailey’s Ariel and her underwater world flitting by. As the title appears on the screen, you hear Bailey sing the words, “Out of the sea / Wish I could be / Part of that world.” The camera focuses on her as she sings the lyrics, pulling back to show her with a mermaid’s tail and a purple top. It fades out as the words “May 2023” appear on the screen. And that’s it.
The Present Age is the 100% reader-supported home of Parker Molloy’s writing about media, culture, politics, and more. Please support our work by becoming a subscriber.
Teaser trailers don’t typically tell us much about a movie. In fact, sometimes teasers can be downright misleading (see: The first teaser for Frozen was just a clip of Josh Gad’s Olaf fighting Sven the reindeer over a carrot). It’s hard to tell exactly what this iteration of The Little Mermaid will look like when it comes out next year, but that didn’t stop people from having some extremely strong opinions about it.
As I write this (noon Central Time on Monday, September 12), The Little Mermaid teaser has been viewed more than 9.5 million times on YouTube. It has 360 thousand likes… and 1.2 million dislikes.
And naturally, the people who make their living being professionally upset about anything and everything that can get them views rushed to release videos that basically amount to them going, “OMG, it’s terrible! Wokeness! Blah blah blah!” and so on. By “woke,” they’re pretty clearly just restating that they’re angry about Bailey being cast. It’s not like the teaser included a monologue about social justice or anything like that. It’s really just the casting.
I have to ask: doesn’t it ever get exhausting being the “heh heh, go woke, go broke, heh heh” guys?
What are they even doing with their lives? Generally speaking, these videos are by adults whose life works seem to center on getting extraordinarily angry about completely meaningless pop culture nonsense.
Sometimes it’s not even anything new that makes these guys upset. When Disney announce Bailey’s casting in 2019, the bizarre right-wing YouTubers who rage about this stuff all put out videos complaining about “wokeness.” And now, three years later, they’re churning out damn near identical content about a teaser trailer that features nothing except her singing a few bars from a song. And it’s not even just a video. As I was writing this, one of those channels uploaded a second 12+ minute video about the teaser. Call me crazy, but creating 25 minutes of content to rant about a 1:23 video has to be one of the most deranged things a person can do on the internet.
The amazing thing about all of these types of accounts is the complete and total lack of self-awareness. To watch them is to come away with a child’s understanding of the world. Cancel culture is bad!!!! gets placed neatly next to videos cheering on the “cancellation” of people, movies, shows, and businesses they don’t like. “The BIGGEST SJW In Video Games FIRED! Get Woke Go Broke!” reads the title of one video. “Insane Teacher FIRED After Absurd Lessons That Will Make Your Skin Crawl…” reads another.
Other videos are just nonsense. There’s one titled, “Teacher FIRED For Not MEOWING… Yes Really! Woke Schools Strike Again!” You’ll be shocked to learn that no, this did not happen. “Adele Says She Is A Woman At Genderless Awards & Gets Cancelled For REFUSING Woke Nonsense,” reads another title of a video about a thing that simply did not happen.
But apparently, this sort of braindead conservative punditry pays the bills.
I have no idea whether The Little Mermaid remake will be good, and that’s okay. Why? Because I’m 36 years old and have real problems.
I find it really hard to get angry about a TV show, movie, or video game. The same goes for sports. I love sports. I love the Cubs, the Bulls, the Bears, and the White Sox are okay, too. I want them to succeed, and I’ll always cheer them on (unless the White Sox are playing the Cubs, in which case, sorry guys, but it’s the Cubs). But when they lose… I don’t know. I just sort of get on with life.
On January 6, 2019, my beloved Chicago Bears were playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card game. With time running out, the Bears’ season came down to one man: kicker Cody Parkey. All he had to do was hit a 43-yard field goal and the Bears would have moved on to the NFC Divisional playoffs. But he missed in a big way. It was an ugly kick that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and the team’s season came to a very frustrating end. Watching it, my reaction was, “Oh man, that sucks.” The Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl in my lifetime (I was born a few months after they beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX), and playoff wins had been few and far between. Bummer.
And then there are guys like this. Seriously, watch this fan’s video as he left the game:
I love sports, but I cannot imagine getting that upset about “my” team losing — just like I cannot imagine getting that upset about whether or not a children’s movie was made with the “right” casting choices. This is what it must be like to simply not have any real problems in the world. I envy the people whose lives are so bereft of adversity that a Black woman being cast in a role that was white in the cartoon version of a fictional movie from more than 30 years ago is something worth getting outraged about. I envy the people who have so little to be upset about that a kicker missing a clutch field goal becomes something they’re willing to get red-in-the-face with rage over. Life must be good for them.
I’m sure that when The Little Mermaid comes out next year, the same people who raged about it in 2019 and raged about it this month will once again find the energy to get outraged about it for a third time. I’m sure that if it underperforms at the box office, they’ll say, “Heh heh, another ‘woke’ movie failed!!! Because ‘wokeness’!!!” And I’m sure these accounts will get a bunch of views and a bunch of cash because, sadly, that’s the world we live in and the incentive structure that exists in the world of media.
Sure, this post was a bit of a bummer, but do you know what’s not a bummer? This thread. Trust me.