The casting of NewJeans‘ Danielle in the South Korean dub of The Little Mermaid has been met with mixed responses ever since the news broke out. The decision was initially criticized due to her reportedly inaccurate Korean pronunciation as well as lack of experience in voice acting.
When the “Part Of Your World” music video dropped, the tables turned, and more praised Danielle for her singing skills and angelic visuals. Despite this, it seems like Western critics are in doubt about the casting now.
Although most non-Korean audiences will probably never watch the Korean dub of the movie, Danielle’s casting is being called out as a “show of colorism.” Journalist Isabel Cara from Cultura Colectiva claims that even though fans are celebrating Danielle’s participation in the movie, “there are those who say it is colorism.”
Reactions on social networks were not long in coming as K-Pop fans are jumping with excitement for recognizing Danielle’s talent. But, as it happens with the Internet, some users criticized the choice of Danielle as the dubbing actress because they believe this is a case of “colorism,” that is, discrimination based on skin tone since they say that it should be an actress of Afro origin who is in charge of the dubbing in Korean.
— Isabel Cara
Cara is not the only one who pointed this out. News site Market Research Telecast also voiced a similar opinion.
Both articles heavily emphasize the claim that South Korea often faces problems involving “xenophobia” and “racism,” with Cultura Cultiva even going so far as to claim that the decision was due to South Korea’s “overemphasis on white skin.” This opinion was later rediscussed on the Korean online forum Nate Pann.
Netizens immediately hit back, claiming that anyone searching for a black woman who can accurately dub lines in Korean and have sufficient acting and singing ability is near impossible.
- They probably chose Danielle for the dub because she’s good at English. Why are they pettily getting angered over this?
- They’re not criticizing her for her pronunciation but this? It’s not like Danielle is re-dubbing it in English, and she’s dubbing it in Korean, so why are they criticizing this?
- Do you think there’s a black voice actor or celebrity in our country who is good at Korean and can sing?
- Just because they’re a multi-racial country, they must think that Korea is too… Korea is mostly made out of Asians so why are they acting up?
- I think they reflected being PC into The Little Mermaid and so they made a black woman the lead but how are they cursing when a Korean is singing? Make it make sense. Does this [PC-ness] only apply to black people?
- Did they have to ask around if anyone knows a black person who can speak Korean and is located in Korea to ask them to do the dub? I’m sick of this.
Indeed, it would have been difficult to locate such a specific actor or celebrity in South Korea alone, where the majority are Koreans. With Danielle, who is half Korean, even being criticized for slightly lacking pronunciation, it would have been difficult to find a black actor that could satisfy the standards for language in the dub.