An online entertainment commentator claimed on Sunday that Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is struggling to attract interest in communist China before Friday’s opening.
Pre-sales of The Little Mermaid tickets began on Friday at China’s box office, but it seems that it will be an uphill push to get anyone interested in what is potentially the biggest market in the world. China notoriously disadvantages Hollywood movies in its theaters, instead pressuring audiences to spend their money on homemade “patriotic” communist propaganda on the supposed greatness of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.
This has not stopped major entertainment companies in America, and prominently Disney, from attempting to court the Chinese market, often to disappointing results.
Entertainment commentator Luis Fernando, well known for offering general box office reports, claimed on Sunday that only $4,000 in pre-sales were sold for The Little Mermaid Friday for the entire period of May 25-28, which amounts to a disastrous opening next week if things don’t improve.
Meanwhile in #China’s #BoxOffice, ticket pre-sales for #TheLittleMermaid show no signs of reaction.#Disney liveaction finished SUN with a scary $13k total after 3 days of pre-sales, for the whole MAY 25-28 period.
Could be the worst opening ever for Hollywood tentpole in China. pic.twitter.com/EMCDjyDFYP
— Luiz Fernando (@Luiz_Fernando_J) May 21, 2023
The live-action remake’s titular character is played by R&B singer and actress Halle Bailey. Casting a black actress as Ariel may have potentially alienated the Chinese Communist Party, a genocidal tyranny notorious for anti-black racism, from banning black people from restaurants and hotels in 2020 in response to the Wuhan coronavirus to producing racist “viral” social media videos of African children unknowingly insulting themselves in Mandarin.
In the movie industry, Chinese promotional material for Hollywood films has notoriously attracted accusations of anti-black racism, most prominently in 2015 when Star Wars: The Force Awakens released a poster that relegated major character Finn, played by black actor John Boyega, to the far background of the image. As the Independent noted, the character of Finn was even smaller than the droid BB-8 on the Chinese poster.
china’s star wars poster shrunk john boyega because he’s black, absolutely disgusting behaviour. pic.twitter.com/3vARSxtXLI
— bruschetta dortmund (@meridiansour) December 4, 2015
The Chinese state propaganda newspaper Global Times claimed in 2019, when Disney announced Bailey’s casting in The Little Mermaid, that the move “shocked” Chinese viewers.
“Unfortunately, it seems that Chinese audiences aren’t buying into the casting decision,” the state outlet declared. “Although some Chinese netizens think Bailey is beautiful and sweet, they generally hold the opinion that the casting choice is a disruption of the character who originally appeared as a white princess with red hair in the Disney cartoon.”
The outlet also claimed that some “netizens” were advocating for the casting of an Asian man to play Prince Eric.
Interest in The Little Mermaid outside of China has also appeared minor. As Breitbart News reported, back in March the first full trailer for the film proved to be massively unpopular, garnering more than one million “dislikes” on YouTube less than a week after its unveiling during the Oscars.
Disney has endeavored to court Chinese audiences, attempting with little success to capitalize on the massive size of the country’s film industry. The company has gone as far as to tacitly support the ongoing genocide of Turkic peoples in East Turkistan, the majority of them Uyghur Muslims – thanking China’s public security apparatus in the region for supposed help in producing the failed live-action remake of Mulan. The note of gratitude appeared in the film’s credits.
The U.S. State Department has estimated China has imprisoned potentially “millions” of Uighurs and other Muslims.
Set to debut in cinemas May 26, the live-action The Little Mermaid features an ethnically diverse cast, with actress Halle Bailey, who is black, in the title role and Melissa McCarthy, who is white, as Ursula, the sea witch.
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