Racists Accept Mythical Sea Creatures, But Not An Asian-American Ariel

Last November, Diana Huey, a Japanese-born actress accepted the role of Ariel in the American touring production of The Little Mermaid.
For months now, she’s toured the U.S. as the lead in a role many associate with a young, white, redheaded teen clad in a seashell bra. And ever since Huey took the stage she’s encountered an onslaught of racist remarks from both audiences and Disney fans.
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However, the racist encounters reached a fever pitch when she got to Memphis. “It's hard not to take it personally," Huey said in a phone interview with Buffalo News. "I had kind of a funky first part of the show and I was like, how do I get out of this? I can't let that affect me," she continued. The show Huey is referring to is her recent scheduled performance at the historic Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee.
Before her Memphis show, Huey stumbled into a black hole of disgusting, racist Facebook remarks. According to the actress/singer, the backlash on social media was far more intense than what she’d experienced in other states. She noted to Buffalo News that it was indeed a tough performance. Shortly after, she paid a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which helped her recalibrate. Though she admitted an encounter in Nashville with an Asian girl and her adoptive mother that reminded her of the bigger picture.
"The mum pulled me aside and said, 'The second I saw that you were playing Ariel, I just burst into tears for the sake of my daughter being able to see that,'" Huey said to Buffalo News. "Seeing a little Asian girl in a place where there aren't a lot of Asians, it reminds me how important it is to say diversity matters and being open-minded matters and equality matters. If I have to take the brunt of it every now and again, I will." Thankfully, she's also received an outpouring of support after opening up about her experience.
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While the decision to cast an Asian-American woman as the lead of The Little Mermaid may have seemed like no big deal in 2016, this year it’s a little different according to the show’s director, Glenn Casale. "A lot has changed since this (presidential) election. People are allowed to speak their minds now."
While this is indeed sad, it’s no surprise. It’s not the first time a fictitious story filled with fantastical, mythical creatures suffered a lack of imagination when it came to casting diverse characters (see: Game of Thrones).