Wednesday, June 07, 2023

New York Times on Critics of The Little Mermaid: Show No Curiosity Whatsoever and Simply Label Them Racist

A New York Times story takes on the issues with the remake of a Disney classic by offering a portrait of the man who "has been president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production for 13 years."

Sean Bailey is in charge of live-action remakes of films like “The Little Mermaid.” It’s a job that puts him in the middle of a partisan divide.

A "partisan divide"? With words like that, you would expect a measure of neutrality and even-handedness. But works at the New York Times.

What follows is an interesting discussion of the Walt Disney Company's choices in the past 10 to 15 years, but as to the film's critics, needless to say, the Times does not think it necessary for its reporters to show any curiosity whatsoever, consider their viewpoints, and do their homework.

Call them racist, and there is no reason to develop further 

Four times, the article calls out "the racist responses to the film", mentions that the "casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” was met with racist commentary online" (in a photo caption), refers to "online trolls flooding movie sites with racist one-star reviews" (those, though, come from abroad, the film having "done well in… North America"(!)) and, linking a Guardian article which offers a shield, denounces "a torrent of racist commentary".

One-star reviews are racist?  Those are the meat not of conservatives but of liberals, which rain down on Amazon every time a right-leaning book is published…

In case anyone is interested in the article, here are excerpts:

 Mr. Bailey sitting with his elbows on his legs and his hands clasped in front of him.

Disney likes the cash. The company also views Mr. Bailey’s remake operation as crucial to remaining relevant. Disney’s animated classics are treasured by fans, but most showcase ideas from another era, especially when it comes to gender roles: Be pretty, girls, and things might work out.

The reimaginings, as Mr. Bailey refers to his remakes, find ways to make Disney stories less retrograde. His heroines are empowered, and his casting emphasizes diversity. A live-action “Snow White,” set for release next year, stars the Latina actress Rachel Zegler as the princess known as “the fairest of them all.” Yara Shahidi played Tinker Bell in the recent “Peter Pan and Wendy,” making her the first Black woman to portray the character onscreen.

“We want to reflect the world as it exists,” Mr. Bailey said.

But that worldview — and business strategy — has increasingly put Disney and Mr. Bailey, a low-profile and self-effacing executive, in the middle of a very loud, very unpolite cultural fight. For every person who applauds Disney, there seems to be a counterpart who complains about being force-fed “wokeness.”

 … Consider his remake of “The Little Mermaid,” which arrived in theaters two weeks ago and cost an estimated $375 million to make and market. The new version scuttles problematic lyrics from the 1989 original. (“It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man.”) In the biggest change, Halle Bailey, who is Black, plays Ariel, the mermaid. Disney has long depicted the character as white, including at its theme parks.

Halle Bailey speaking to reporters on the red carpet at the premiere of “The Little Mermaid.”

The casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” was met with racist commentary online. Credit Philip Cheung for The New York Times
Support for Ms. Bailey, notably from people of color and film critics, has been offset by a torrent of racist commentary on social media and movie fan sites. Others

 … The upshot? Disney hoped “The Little Mermaid” would generate as much as $1 billion worldwide, with the furor evaporating once the film arrived in theaters. Feedback scores from test screenings were strong, as were early reviews. “Alan Menken just told me that he thinks this one is better than the animated film,” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said at the film’s premiere last month, referring to the Oscar-winning composer.

Instead, “The Little Mermaid” 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. The film has done well in North America, outperforming “Aladdin”

 … Mr. Bailey declined to comment on the racist responses to the film. 

 … “I think what he is doing is vastly important,” said Geena Davis, an actress and gender equity activist. “It’s not just about inspiring little girls. It’s about normalizing for men and boys, making it perfectly normal to see a girl doing interesting and important things and taking up space.”

One criticism of Mr. Bailey is that he has not created an original franchise. “We’re going to keep trying,” he said. Credit Philip Cheung for The New York Times

 … Like Mr. Iger, Mr. Bailey does not hide his political leanings. He is close to Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, a friendship that started in 2000, when Mr. Bailey held a fund-raiser for him in Hollywood. (Mr. Bailey has a lot of famous friends. He goes way back with Ben Affleck, helped Dwayne Johnson start a tequila brand and serves on the board of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute.)


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