The debate over The Little Mermaid plot and the story’s key figure started last year after Disney tapped an African-American actress for the main role in a new remake, but now it has apparently received a new twist in the wake of the sweeping BLM protests.
One of Copenhagen’s main landmarks, the statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s the Little Mermaid, has been vandalised, with citizens waking up on Friday to see two words – “racist fish” – written on its stone base in the Scandinavian city’s harbour.
“We consider it vandalism and have started an investigation”, a Copenhagen police spokesman said of the incident, which no one has claimed responsibility for.
The 5.5ft (1.65m) bronze statue, erected 107 years ago, is both one of Copenhagen’s most frequented attractions, annually drawing millions of tourists to it, and a regular target for vandals – it has been beheaded twice, knocked off its perch, painted, etc.
However, this time, it is not clear what racist connotations the perpetrators discerned in the popular fairy tale and its main heroine.
As the classic story goes, the Little Mermaid is a sea king’s daughter who can’t wait to become human after she falls in love with a prince and trades her marvellous voice for human legs in a deal with a witch.
As Ane Grum-Schwensen, researcher at the Hans Christian Andersen Centre at the University of Southern Denmark, explained, she was “having a hard time seeing what is particularly racist” about the fairy tale that the figure is taken from.
The debate comes almost a year after a Disney live-action remake of the same-name 1989 animated film became central to a controversy as African-American actress Halle Bailey was cast for the key role.
“It’s racism. She [the mermaid] isn’t a fish”, one quipped, with others pointing to the vandals’ apparently ludicrous perception of the mermaid.
“It would appear that every statue is racist. Some people just don’t deserve to have or to see nice things around them”, another blasted.
It would appear that every statue is rasicst. Some people just don’t deserve to have or to see nice things around them. And its them that spoil it all for others who do.
— Kaytow (@Kaytow11) July 3, 2020
… with many more lashing out at what they call “opportunistic” vandalism:
BLM and Antifa trash art just for fun.
Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid branded ‘racist fish’ in graffiti attack https://t.co/VyjqaOuqwp
— front 243👌🇸🇪 (@konstockholm) July 3, 2020
Not all vandalism has meaning. Victims might perceive there to be but you can’t get inside a criminal’s head to know for sure. Most is opportunist & mindless, done for kicks. I have no idea what the history of this monument is but at the time it was erected hate was universal.
— Mik Lote (@Mc_Lote) July 3, 2020
Soon it will be a novelty to have a statue that isn’t racist!
— Sandra Edmondson (@EdmondsonSandra) July 3, 2020
Others speculated how such moves adversely affect trust in the BLM goals, as the world has seen numerous protests triggered by the death of US African-American man George Floyd.
Shit like this is going to totally undermine support for the real and important aims of the BLM movement.
Part of me wonders if it wasn’t done for exactly that reason.
— Ben Stephens (@stephens_ben) July 3, 2020
😜😜😜 worlds gone mad
— Helen Smith (@HelenSm26208824) July 3, 2020
Some directly suggested that such vandalism is the BLM movement’s side effect:
I can’t help thinking all this ridiculous behaviour is down to BLM movement and what it’s created which is having an advert effect. If we were to change the slogan to “All lives matter “ we could all pull together instead of this chasm that’s coming between us.
— Jegsy Tobin (@gegsy19) July 3, 2020
This is what happens the media promotes and supports BLM !
— Garry (@Garrymi) July 3, 2020
Some reserved room for a bit of irony as well.
Holy mackerel can’t we just leave the fish out of our problems?
— chuck madden ☮ (@chuckmaddenpics) July 3, 2020
sure, why not black fish lives matter too in this day n age
— TheGreatGildersleeve (@TheGreatGilder1) July 3, 2020
The inscription emerged as an overwhelming Black Lives Matter trend has in recent weeks seen hundreds of statues related – even indirectly – to slave ownership or other social injustices defaced or pulled down around the world. Following a string of attacks in the US, Trump signed an executive order to protect the country’s monuments, some of which have become targets for protesters during a month of anti-police brutality and anti-racism rallies in the aftermath of Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota police.