Disney Strategy: Go for WOKE No Matter What

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
While this age-old quote is attributed to several authors, the truth of the statement is undeniable. It is a slippery slope indeed when we begin the thankless, endless task of giving people what they want- simply because they want it.
Case in point:
Recently, much ‘ado’ has been made about Walt Disney’s forthcoming remake of their own 1989 classic, “The Little Mermaid.” The issue? The uproar? The brouhaha? This new ‘Little Mermaid’ (Ariel) is black.
As a longtime fan of Disney films (not the corporation), I take issue with some of their remakes of late, not because of the changes per se, but rather how the changes affect the basic, beloved original storyline. “The Lion King” is remade, and suddenly Sarabi (Simba’s mother) is now center stage with her ’lioness’ crew, much like Beyonce’, the singer/actress doing her voice-over. “Beauty and the Beast” is remade, and suddenly Belle is a feminist who doesn’t really ‘need a man.’ Aladdin is remade, and now the Genie is a hip-hop artist and Jasmine is
a feminist too.

So, Ariel is Black…

What’s the harm? Isn’t change good? Isn’t change always necessary? Good questions.

Consider if you will, this example: In 1957 the film, “12 Angry Men” was released. Director Sidney Lumet’s
critically acclaimed production was almost instantly considered a cinematic classic. Taking place mostly in a jury deliberation room, the film chronicles a day in the lives of 12 individual and distinct men (who happened to be 12
White actors) as they challenge themselves (and each other) concerning the fate of an 18-year-old boy of color (the ethnicity of the youth is never denoted in particular) accused of murdering his father.
Fast forward 40 years. In 1997 a remake of, “12 Angry Men’ is released to a new generation and audience. This time the legendary William Friedkin is in the director’s chair, and once again all-in-all, a very well-done film, clearly utilizing some of the same thematic elements that made the original the classic that it is.
With that in mind, one might ask, why remake a film that by all accounts needed no remake?
While many suppositions and rationales could be offered, there are none that could change its impact, or the effect that it has made.

Do we always need a redux?

Some might cite “lack of color” as a reason. But is that valid? It isn’t-and here’s why.
Let’s keep in mind the year is 1957. Often, in films of that period, many (but not all) of the roles are portrayed by white actors or ethnicities whose pigmentation indicates a derivative of European heritage. In other words, they
look white.
Sydney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and James Earl Jones (to name a few) were making an indelible mark as well at this time. In spite of what some may profess, few could argue with the fact that “12 Angry Men” was a landmark film- not because of who was in it, but rather WHAT was in it.
It gave its viewers (regardless of color) a long, hard, lingering look at the challenge and intense pressure on the hearts and minds of jurors. The weight of the world on their shoulders, as they grappled with those three seemingly harmless words, “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Under such circumstances, race would not have been a factor.

The message that the film sent was not better received when Ossie Davis replaced John Fielder. Jack Klugman’s role was not more believable when cast through Actor Dorian Harewood. Edward James Olmos was not more convincing than George Voskovec.
Will Actress Hallie Bailey be as endearing an Ariel as Actress Jodie Benson was? Wil her voice be as mesmerizing singing, “Part Of Your World”? From what I have seen, it certainly seems a resounding ‘yes’ to both questions.
Regardless of what is popular or fashionable, hip or trendy, filmmakers owe it to the integrity of the original to respect the original’s intent. Much like turning a building created as a church into a night club- no matter how you spin it, it is blatant disrespect. So, when it comes to whether remakes or reboots should be done, if the original is not by any measure enhanced, for the sake of the film, for the sake of the audience the film was made for- leave well enough alone.

Back to top button