What do Americans think of adaptations in the remake of The Little Mermaid?

Linley SandersData Journalist
May 24, 2023, 5:20 PM GMT+0

This week, the live-action version of The Little Mermaid will open in theaters with some adaptations from the 1989 animated movie — including updated song lyrics that are designed to reflect social attitudes that have changed since the movie's initial release and the decision to cast a Black actress, Halle Bailey, as Ariel.

A new YouGov poll reveals that Americans are more likely to oppose (47%) than support (30%) modifications intended to better align classic media entertainment with current social values. The idea of updating older forms of entertainment is more supported among adults who are 44 and younger (48%) than people who are 45 and older (15%). Parents are also more supportive (46% to 35%) than non-parents (26% to 50%) of adapting media.

For "The Little Mermaid" remake, creators decided to alter two songs. One song, "Kiss the Girl" will be adapted to emphasize changing attitudes toward consent and the other song, "Poor Unfortunate Souls" will be updated to reflect feminist ideals. The new versions of the songs have not been made public yet.

In terms of the original songs from the animated version of "The Little Mermaid," 44% of Americans say they are familiar with the song "Kiss the Girl," where the main character's sidekick sings, "Yes, you want her. Look at her, you know you do. Possible she wants you, too. There is one way to ask her. It don’t take a word. Not a single word. Go on and kiss the girl.” Respondents were shown the song's lyrics and asked whether they approve of them: 54% do when it comes to "Kiss the Girl" while 20% disapprove.

About one-quarter of Americans (28%) say “Kiss the Girl” should be changed to reflect changing social attitudes toward consent, while 45% think it should not. Among people who are familiar with the song, 32% support the change and 52% do not. Younger Americans are split on whether the song lyrics should be altered (39% to 42%), whereas older Americans are much more likely to say they should not be changed (46%) than to say they should be (20%).

About one-third of Americans (37%) say they are familiar with "Poor Unfortunate Souls." In this song, the movie's villain sings, "On land it's much preferred for ladies not to say a word, and after all dear, what is idle prattle for? Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation... It's she who holds her tongue who gets a man.” Three in 10 Americans think the lyrics should be changed in the live-action remake to reflect changing social attitudes toward gender roles, while 45% believe it should not.

There is one adaptation that Americans approve of — with the announcement that Halle Bailey is set to portray Ariel in a live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid," 62% of Americans approve of Disney's choice to cast a Black actress in the remake. Black Americans (81%) are especially likely to approve of the casting decision.

Most Americans (63%) believe it is very or somewhat important for Disney princesses to reflect racial diversity and, although 49% believe they do, 20% disagree. Younger Americans are slightly more likely than older adults to see diversity in today's Disney princesses (54% compared to 46%). Hispanic (58%) and white Americans (50%) are more likely than Black Americans (45%) to say that Disney princesses currently reflect racial diversity.

— Carl Bialik and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on April 12 - 20, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty Images

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