Disney is under fire for ‘wokery’ slipped into its live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, which is projected to bring in $100 million for the company despite mixed reviews this Memorial Day weekend.
Critics and audiences have given the reboot of the 1989 animated classic ‘average’ and ‘unfavorable’ reviews on ratings site Metacritic. Some bash the makers’ efforts to update the film to contemporary social mores.
Naysayers have focussed on tweaks to the plot and lyrics that play around with sex, ethnicity and cultural values to make the 125-minute remake fit with Disney’s progressive politics.
Scuttle, a male seagull in the original, has become a female gannet. Halle Bailey delivers a showstopping performance as Ariel, but critics question the decision to switch to a mixed-race family of mermaids and mermen.
Halle Bailey is widely praised for her performance as Ariel, but critics have questioned the decision to opt for a mixed race family of mermaids and mermen
Melissa McCarthy, who plays the villainous sea witch Ursula, says the character was inspired by drag queens, including the 1970s movie icon Divine
In the new version, King Triton, played by Javier Bardem, has developed environmentalist leanings, complaining that humans are polluting the oceans and ravaging his undersea kingdom of Atlantica.
Melissa McCarthy, who plays the villainous sea witch Ursula in the remake, has said her performance was influenced by drag queens — cross-dressing male comics who have become a lightning rod for America’s culture wars.
McCarthy’s inspiration may be in keeping with the original, as the original Ursula was based on the famous drag artist, Divine, who appeared in movies from the 1960s to the 1980s.
‘I just hope to do every incredible drag queen proud,’ McCarthy told Deadline.
Tweaks to the original lyrics are also raising eyebrows.
The song ‘Kiss the Girl,’ sung by Sebastian the crab, in which Prince Eric smooches Ariel, has been rewritten so the royal secures affirmative consent before puckering up his lips.
In the 1989 version, the crab sang: ‘Possible she want you too/There is one way to ask her/It don’t take a word, not a single word/Go on and kiss the girl.’
The 2023 version, however, has been updated for the #MeToo era.
‘Possible she want you, too/Use your words, boy, and ask her,’ runs the new version.
Fans are split on the changes — some say it’s a reasonable update to fit shifting attitudes, others say it’s unnecessary.
Some conservative viewers have said the final product is cringeworthy and unwatchable.
Still, right-of-center movie critic Christian Toto, of the Hollywood in Toto website, said it was not the full-on ‘woke-a-thon’ some had feared.
Sebastian the crab’s lyrics were changed in the remake, reminding Prince Eric to get consent from Ariel before kissing her
The movie premiered this week amid a row over wokery between Disney and Florida Gov Ron DeSantis (right), who seeks the Republican presidential nomination
King Triton, played by Javier Bardem, has developed environmentalist leanings, complaining of mankind polluting his undersea kingdom of Atlantica
‘The run-up to the film’s release suggested another Disney woke-a-thon, but the film doesn’t live down to that description,’ Toto told The Washington Times.
‘Halle Bailey’s colorblind casting drew its fair share of critics, but she boasts a lovely voice and pleasant screen presence, shushing the doubters.’
Toto said the remake offered a gentler version of Disney’s historical updating.
The script ‘never stops to lecture us about the patriarchy or other modern ills,’ said Toto, and its environmentalism is mild and ‘woven gently into the story’s fabric.’
The movie premiered on Friday as a row over wokery between Disney and Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, now a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, heated up.
Disney in court papers filed on Thursday opposed a request by DeSantis in the company’s First Amendment lawsuit against the anti-woke governor.
The feud started last year of the company’s public opposition to legislation concerning lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades that critics called Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
The entertainment giant has frequently faced criticism from conservatives, who accuse it and Hollywood more generally of pushing progressive rhetoric on American audiences.