The reason is that Halle is a black woman; and of course we all grew up with Ariel as a white character.
In fact, I don’t think there were any black mermaids in the TV animations; and up until recently (blame Aquaman), I hadn’t really thought about the “existence” of black mermaids.
All of this got me thinking again about how life almost always imitates art, which means there has always been great social responsibility on the shoulders of movie bosses.
And it appears they finally understand and embrace that responsibility.
Real life black stars like Serena Williams and Cory “Coco” Gauff are great, but black mythical characters and superheroes!
That has the potential to impact on our social fabric on a whole other level.
Enough has been said about last year’s phenomenon that was Black Panther and how that elevated African culture into another realm.
Seeing how much money that movie made, may just have been the thing that triggered Hollywood into making very brave decisions.
This year, we saw a black animated Spider-Man enter the Spiderverse; Dora the Explorer is coming, with the brown-skinned Isabella Moner in the lead role; and the future of the British super spy 007 is in the hands of a black actress named Lashana Lynch.
Yes, not only is future 007 apparently black, but also female.
In another example, the character Michael Burnham in Star Trek Discovery is basically the black, female version of the Mr Spock we got to know in the original TV series.
The beloved Harry Potter character Hermione Granger got similar treatment when the adult her was played by black actress Noma Dumezweni in theatre productions.
None of this is new, of course. Most notably Wesley Snipes, Halle Berry and Will Smith have all played superheroes Blade, Storm and Hancock.
There are other fictional characters like Luke Cage, Nick Fury and Static Shock, who are all black; and Michael B. Jordan was of course the Human Torch in the last and forgettable version of the Fantastic Four movie.
But it’s the first time that it’s happening on this scale, this deliberately and with this frequency; and I reckon that bodes very well for the self- esteem of little black boys and girls all over the world.
Being represented in popular media is something those who have always had the privilege find hard to understand.
Absence is an impossible concept to explain, so we almost always resort to the argument about being represented.
But it’s less about representatively, and more about visibility.
Our kids grow up in a global society that doesn’t always see them.
There are few brands made especially for their skin tone, or hair texture; and few mainstream protagonists they can identify with; or aspire to be.
Being the good guy in the story often means you have to also be white. As a metaphor for what’s possible; and a mirror to what is.
Changes in Hollywood may be slow, but are important for the future social psychology of kids.
Soon there will be no more mental obstacles to imagining yourself as the hero of your own superhero fiction.
We’ve been OK with a green super hero for decades. It’s time we are OK with black ones.