Harry Styles
Photo: Lisa Maree Williams (Getty Images for ARIA)

Word has it that singer Harry Styles of boy band One Direction fame is in talks to be cast as Prince Eric to Halle Bailey’s Ariel in the Disney live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

Negotiations are still in the early stages, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but if Styles is cast, it would show that Disney definitely plans to make music a central part of the re-creation of one of its classic films.

And Styles would join a cast that so far will reportedly include not only Bailey, but comedian Melissa McCarthy as Ursula the sea witch, as well as Awkwafina of Crazy Rich Asians fame and Jacob Tremblay of Room in featured roles, The Guardian reports.

However, if Styles is indeed the one, then casting for Halle Bailey’s prince will go just as The Root’s political editor, Jason Johnson, predicted — to a white man:

As Johnson noted, such a casting does raise questions about just how far Disney and perhaps other major studios are truly willing to go when it comes to diversity in casting:

This is not some rant about interracial relationships in television and movies, but when the interracial couples only look one way, it seems like it’s more about reinforcing pre-existing racial and sexual dynamics than actual diversity.

[…]

Disney has a long unmistakable record of consistently failing to cast black women and men together as romantic leads. A black princess should have a black prince just like every other Disney princess has a prince of her own race (except Pocahontas because that’s vaguely historical).

So, the big question here may be not whether a fictitious mermaid can be played by an actress of any race. Surely the answer to that is a resounding “Yes.”

No, the real question may be about whether Disney, and Hollywood as a whole, is truly seeing black actors, and by extension black people, as “every person,” and thus capable of carrying a mainstream movie all by themselves, just as white actors do every day in all manner of “every person” movie that hits the big and small screen.

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