Friday, July 12, 2019

Little Mermaid Backlash: A 'Cultural Appropriation' Outrage Tragedy



Today, I'm going to talk about the controversy surrounding the casting of singer and actress Halle Bailey as Ariel in the upcoming Disney remake of the Little Mermaid. Mainly, those complains have centered around the fact that Halle Bailey, who is black and doesn't have red hair, doesn't look anything like the cartoon version of Ariel. However, the Woke crowd have predictably screamed racism. They seem to have forgotten that racism is a strong charge, as in for example how black Americans were treated before desegregation, and it's not to be used lightly without adequate evidence, lest the real history becomes forgotten.

Personally, I'm fine with a black Ariel. I agree that The Little Mermaid is just a story, mermaids aren't even real so they can be anything you want them to be. However, I also understand a lot of people, especially those around my age who watched the cartoon back when they were very young, do have an attachment to how Ariel was portrayed in that particular production. So these emotions are jusitifiable, even if not entirely rational, and they certainly do not represent racism. In fact, I even suspect that some of the people pushing the racism angle here may have an agenda, for example to create culture war style conflict for political ends, or to justify a further increase in political correctness. Call me paranoid, but the world has gotten quite strange in recent years, so anything is possible.

Of course, another reason why people are so upset about this is the 'Woke' push against so-called 'cultural approriation' in recent years. Starting a few years ago, the Woke crowd have deemed every instance of someone adopting elements of another culture an injustice akin to blackface. For example, last year's Eurovision winner was accused of appropriating Asian culture in her performance. There was also this pointless outrage about a white young woman who wore a Chinese dress to her prom. And then, again just last year, Scarlett Johannson was forced to quit a trans role in an upcoming movie, because SJWs demanded a real trans person be cast instead. I mean, if you ridigly uphold cultural boundaries like this, you would expect to get a negative reaction towards a black actress being cast as Ariel. To expect anything else would just be a double standard.

While BreadTube itself in general has not cared to comment on this latest controversy, the idea of 'cultural appropriation' has deep roots in the pool of theory that Breadists draw their ideas from. For there to be 'cultural appropriation', culture has to be seen to belong to one group in the first place, which means its use by another group would hence be seen as appropriation, and hence exploitation. This worldview is fundamentally rooted in the systems of oppression view, which hypothesizes that there are interlinking systems of cultural oppression in capitalist society. Both classical liberals and classical Marxists have disputed this view, and I have in the past made my case as to why I believe there simply cannot be interlocking systems of cultural oppression as the Breadists believe. Anyway, what I want to say is that, parts of intersectional theory can have rather divisive consequences for society, which also undermines solidarity between everyday individuals and ultimately serves the establishment's continued economic privilege above the 99%.

I think we need to put this 'cultural appropration' thing to bed, once and for all. While I agree that blackface is certainly wrong because of its particular historical associations, there is actually no reason why most other forms of cultural appropriation are bad, and in my experience even very progressive people secretly agree with me on this. For example, a white woman wearing an Asian dress doesn't actually hurt anybody.