Disney’s Black Mermaid is not a breakthrough – just look at the literary subgenre of black mermaid fiction

(The Conversation is an independent, non-profit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) Mermaids have become a cultural phenomenon, and clashes over mermaids and race have spilled over into the open. This is especially evident in the backlash to Disney’s long-awaited ‘The Little Mermaid’.

After Disney unveiled the trailer for the film, which will be released in May 2023, social media captured the faces of cheerful young black girls seeing black mermaids on screen for the first time. Less inspiring was the racism that occurred simultaneously, with hashtags like #NotMyMermaid and #MakeMermaidsWhiteAgain circulating on Twitter.

The fact that Disney’s portrayal of a non-white mermaid is controversial is due to 150 years of whitewashing.

In a 2019 op-ed for The New York Times, writer Tracey Baptiste — whose children’s novel “Rise of the Jumbies” features a black mermaid as the protagonist — points out how “Eurocentric stories have obscured the mermaids’ African origins.”

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