There been a lot of “discussion” around the casting of Halle Bailey (a Black girl) as Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
Defenders of the casting choice say that people who hate that the classically ginger Ariel has been race-swapped aren’t progressive enough (or worse.)
But nobody seems to be talking about Ursula, and how by giving the role to Melissa McCarthy, Disney missed an opportunity to cast both an LGBTQ icon and give a nod to Ursula’s roots.
You see, Ursula was inspired by the drag queen Divine — despite being voiced by a woman — the late, great Pat Carroll.
No, this isn’t Disney fan speculation. This is a hard fact most Disney addicts have known about for years.
Divine (real name Glenn Milstead) passed away before production was fully underway on The Little Mermaid, but his biographer insisted he would’ve loved to play the role himself.
But, had he known about Ursula, “he would have wanted to play the part himself,” said Jeffrey Schwarz, the documentarian who chronicled Milstead’s life. John Waters agreed. What filthy anti-hero wouldn’t relish such a plum role? “When I was young, all I wanted to be was a Disney villain,” Waters told me. “My idol was the stepmother in Cinderella.”
The last role that the inspiration for Ursula played was Edna Turnblad in the original Hairspray movie.
Hairspray would go on to inspire a wildly successful Broadway musical, with Edna Turnblad being played by Disney veteran voice actor Harvey Fierstein. Fierstein’s most notable Disney credit was Yao from Mulan.
Melissa McCarthy is playing Ursula in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Lizzo reportedly auditioned for the role, and was pretty salty she didn’t get it.
But with all the discussion being focused on a Black Ariel, no one seems to be mentioning that a role literally inspired by a famous drag queen probably should have gone to another LGBTQ actor… if Disney is really serious about being progressive as they claim to be current year, that is.
(EDIT: I see there’s a Change.org petition for such a thing, but it’s gotten very few signatures.)
So I nominate Harvey Fierstein for Ursula, as he’s the heir apparent to Divine.
Not that any of this online drama is going to matter in the long run. If The Little Mermaid is as good as Pinocchio, it’ll be forgotten in six months, tops.
Maybe Mr. Fierstein was offered the role, but was smart enough to turn it down?
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