According to actress Yara Shahidi, audiences are growing ever more vocal in their rejection of Disney’s penchant for race-swapping not because they’re tired of the company’s transparent efforts at virtue signaling, but rather because they are unaware of how such ‘diversity and inclusion’ efforts “can be interwoven together to create something that impacts even more people”.
Shahidi, who is currently set to appear as a race-swapped version of the pixie Tinkerbell in Disney Plus’ upcoming Peter Pan & Wendy live-action remake, offered her thoughts on the growing cultural cynicism towards identity politics during a recent conversation with The Hollywood Reporter.
Speaking with the entertainment news outlet on March 14th while attending the red carpet premiere of her new Apple TV+ series Extrapolations, the actress first broached the topic of race-swapping after being asked for her thoughts on Halle Bailey’s casting as Ariel in Disney’s upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid cash grab.
“I’m so excited to watch Halle onscreen — if there’s anybody that is a princess just in real life, in the world, it’s Halle,” said Sahidi before further opining that the singer’s casting as the red-headed mermaid “made so much sense”.
Turning to the widely poor reception both her and Halle’s respective race-swappings had amongst fans, Shaidi not only agreed with the outlet’s framing that this response was purely based in racism – Hollywood’s favorite piece of disingenuous rhetoric for heading off criticism of their poor output – but also doubled down on the supposed social ‘importance’ of Disney’s latest casting trend.
“What’s been beautiful is seeing the response to both of our characters and seeing how many people feel included in this fairy tale, while also maintaining the magic that we love in the first placed,” said the Grown-ish star.
“I think oftentimes people think of diversity and inclusion as threatening or jeopardizing the quality of the story, instead of seeing how beautifully they can be interwoven together to create something that impacts even more people, that lets even more people into stories that we love,” she added.
Notably, Shahidi is not the first of the two Disney actresses to throw their support behind the ‘all critics are racist’ narrative.
Reflecting on the public’s noted and widespread rejection of The Little Mermaid‘s first teaser trailer – a response largely fueled by the terrible quality of the film’s visuals and Disney’s decision to once again play into identity politics by race-swapping one of their classic characters rather than the presence of a black person specifically – during a February interview with the fashion magazine The Face, Bailey asserted, ““I know people are like: ‘It’s not about race.’ But now that I’m her…”
“People don’t understand that when you’re Black there’s this whole other community. It’s so important for us to see ourselves,” said the singer-slash-actress. “As a Black person, you just expect it and it’s not really a shock anymore.”
Peter Pan & Wendy dives exclusively onto Disney Plus on April 28th, while The Little Mermaid flounders into theaters on May 26th.