The New York Times is being torn to shreds for its review of “The Little Mermaid,” but not for any reason you’re likely imagining. Twitter users criticized the publication and critic Wesley Morris for saying that the children’s movie lacked “kink.”
“Disney’s live-action remake of ‘The Little Mermaid,’ with Halle Bailey starring as Ariel and a diverse cast, ‘reeks of obligation and noble intentions,’ Wesley Morris writes,” the viral tweet read. “‘Joy, fun, mystery, risk, flavor, kink — they’re missing.’”
Twitter users were quick to interpret Morris’ review in the most vulgar way possible, calling for the Times to “go to horny jail” and saying, “Don’t let the New York Times near your children.”
“The Little Mermaid” centers around a young mermaid who loves everything about life above the ocean and who falls in love with a human prince. In the 1989 animated version of the musical, Ariel was 16 years old. According to production notes for the 2023 version, Ariel has been aged up and is described as “a spirited 18-year-old.” Regardless of the character’s actual age, both movies are firmly for children and are rated G and PG, respectively.
Though many users have interpreted the Times’ tweet to refer to sexual kinks, there is another definition that makes more sense in the context of Morris’ review. According to the Merriam-Webster, a “kink” can mean “a clever unusual way of doing something” as well as “unconventional sexual taste or behavior.” Based on the review’s complaints about lack of “mystery” and “risk,” it seems most likely that the Times was using the first definition of the word.
Still, the critical tweets quickly became political. One user wrote, “Leftism: getting angry when there’s not enough kink in kids movies,” while another said, “Funny, the left, right and center all hate this movie.” Still others claimed that the review “proved” a grooming conspiracy theory involving Disney.
This is not the first time “The Little Mermaid” has been subject to social media backlash. When Bailey was cast as Ariel in the live-action adaptation, the film became a lightning rod for online trolls and sparked what The Guardian described as a “woke v. racist” culture war. The movie was criticized for casting a Black actor, even prompting the hashtag #NotMyAriel. There was then a backlash to the backlash as many people came to the film’s defense and called its detractors racist. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who produced the film and served as its lyricist, even addressed the casting controversy, saying, “If that’s the thing that makes you mad, then stay mad. But examine your choices.”
It doesn’t seem as these complaints have done much to dampen the movie’s domestic performance. Over its three-day opening, “The Little Mermaid” raked in an estimated $95.5 million with the expectation that that number will reach $117.5 million after its four-day opening weekend.