Our final stop is already almost here. On May 24, Halle Bailey, half-sister of the musical duo Chloe x Halle, will play Ariel in the live-action adaptation of the classic 1989 animated picture The Little Mermaid. The project has received a lot of attention, largely due to its attractiveness rather than just its actors. Fans of the field are eager to see how the mermaidcore style, which has been quite popular recently, will be depicted on film. But occasionally, hopes are disappointed, and regrettably, that’s what occurred when Disney recently unveiled a time-lapse film showcasing Melissa McCarthy’s transition into Ursula. The LGBTQIA+ community, in particular, expressed a number of unfavorable social comments and thoughts on the makeup outcome in response to the film. Many had hoped that Lizzo or a queer POC persona would play the role of Sea Witch, and when that did not happen, they had believed that, at the very least on an aesthetic level, a magnificent job would be done that would most effectively represent the anti-heroine’s original inspiration, Divine, an icon of radical and provocative drag best known to most as the subject of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and the star of it.
How did the seemingly unrelated realms of Divine and Disney come together? The connection is a man by the name of Howard Ashman. Because the original Andersen’s fairy tale did not include many characteristics about the sea witch’s appearance, the authors and animators of the animated film initially devised various Ursulas, including one that was influenced by Joan Collins. The pivotal turning point was a doodle by animator Rob Minkoff of a chubby vampire with a shark tail and a pink mohawk that everyone thought resembled Divine. The input Ashman makes at this juncture is essential. The dramatist, who, together with Alan Menken, co-wrote the music and dialogue for The Little Mermaid, was homosexual and from Baltimore like Divine. Ashman enjoyed Divine’s sense of humor and exaggerated image of female beauty since they frequently traveled in the same circles. He advised that the drag queen’s likeness be highlighted when he viewed Ursula’s sketches, not only in terms of facial characteristics and physical look but also in terms of make-up and motions. As a consequence, the Ursula we all know and love emerged: a bizarre being with an octopus-like body wearing a glittering black dress, purple tentacles, vivid red lipstick that matched her nail paint, eye-catching eye makeup to draw attention to her eyes, and disheveled hair in a platinum, nearly white tone.
Expectations were therefore to see in the film an even more explicit homage to Divine, the LGBTQIA+ community and drag queens with spectacular make-up, as we have come to expect from the show RuPaul’s Drag Race. In short, something that would leave a lasting impression, as one might expect from a production with a budget of around $200 million. Instead, according to many involved with the live-action sea witch, it lacks both a proper representation of Ursula’s original inspirations and the quality of the make-up. The making-of video revealed a great lack of creativity. Many people have compared McCarthy’s makeup to the sloppy makeup one could see at a Halloween house party because of her uneven eyebrows, flat eyeshadow, and awful contouring.
Ursula’s unimpressive look validated the doubts that some people had about casting a plus-size heterosexual actor in the part of Ursula. Some had anticipated that McCarthy’s position would at least make the makeup artist a member of the LGBTQ community. This is not meant to be an indictment on the famous actress who played Suki from Gilmore Girls in the 1990s, who was the first to recognise the significance of the part in a recent interview with Deadline: “I just hope to do every incredible drag queen proud and Divine proud.” Simply to maintain the same [attitude] of “to give it your all, to throw it out there, no apologies, do it your way.” I wished to provide [Divine] all due respect.