In a move that absolutely everyone saw coming from the moment that Halle Bailey was announced as the film’s lead, the mainstream media has officially taken to blaming the generic boogeyman of racism for the box office failings of Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid remake.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s domestic performance has well outpaced its international numbers, with American audiences contributing $191,560,625 of that total compared to just $140,500,000 from global movie goers.
Unfortunately for Disney, the film’s reported budget was roughly $250 million.
Taking into account the accepted rule of thumb that a film’s true budget, marketing included, can be approximately calculated by doubling its production costs, The Little Mermaid needs to reach at least $500 million to, at the very least, break even.
And with the film, much like its protagonist, currently losing its legs in theaters, the odds of Disney’s latest live-action cash grab being profitable are growing ever more slim.
In light of this failure, rather than reflecting on the fact that most audiences are either tired of seeing classic works constantly and lazily ‘updated’ in the hopes of earning a quick buck or just generally disinterested in seeing yet another CGI-heavy product, the mainstream media has blamed a general attitude of racism for the film’s struggles.
Taking a moment during a June 4th profile on Disney’s head of live-action Sean Bailey to reflect on The Little Mermaid’s box office struggles, The New York Times‘ Brooks Barnes asserted that the film “will top out closer to $600 million, box office analysts said on Sunday, largely because the film faltered overseas, where it was ‘review bombed,’ with online trolls flooding movie sites with racist one-star reviews.”
Notably, Barnes did not provide citations for the experts he quoted.
Likewise, in their June 5th coverage of the film’s struggles in overseas markets, The Hollywood Reporter, citing their own unnamed sources, reported that the film was failing in both China and South Korea specifically due to racist backlash.
“The Little Mermaid is getting doused in select foreign markets amid a racist backlash over the casting of Black actress Halle Bailey in the role of Ariel,” declared Pamela McClintock and Patrick Brzeski. “The social media outcry over Bailey’s casting has been particularly vociferous in both markets. Sources believe this has resulted in unverified audience reviews bashing the movie.”
Not one to let an opportunity to cry racism pass them by, CNN also parroted this talking point, declaring on June 6th that, ” ‘The Little Mermaid’ tanks in China and South Korea amid racist backlash from some viewers.”
“The chilly reception came as viewers in both countries questioned the choice of Bailey as the star of the movie, a decision that has been celebrated elsewhere,” said the outlet’s Michelle Toh, Candice Zhu, and Gawon Bae.
“Fans in mainland China have shared their objections to the movie online, mainly expressing disappointment with Bailey’s casting,” they added. “Similar sentiment was found on social media in South Korea [and] in Japan, where the film has yet to open, it has also faced criticism from those who say the portrayal of Ariel appears to differ from the one they remember.”
As of writing, The Little Mermaid is entering its second week in theaters, where it seems its struggles are only set to continue.