Every so often, an event captures the imagination of conservatives that lays bare how deeply bigotry is ingrained in the movement. This month, it’s been mermaids and Hobbits. When Amazon Prime introduced Black actors playing Hobbits, conservatives screamed, complaining that the series had gone “woke.”

Red State blogger Brandon Morse told CNN that Amazon was embracing “social justice politics.” He claims Tolkien’s stories and characters are “based on European culture.” To be clear, The Lord of the Rings is set in Middle Earth, not Europe, and Hobbits and elves and other creatures are not real. They are fantasy and, clearly, Mr. Morse’s fantasies are all White. 

Then, Disney released a trailer for “The Little Mermaid” and, lo and behold, Ariel is played by a Black actress. That was just too much for the right. Over at the Daily Wire, Matt Walsh, in responding to a listener who wrote that using a Black actor is a case of “White erasure, claimed that the actress should have been White because we would be outraged if a White actor played a Black character. Of course, Ariel is not Black or White. She’s not even human and, again, mermaids are fantasy. 

All of this reminds me of the infamous Tinky Winky episode. Back in the 1990s, Jerry Falwell and a bunch of evangelical Christians determined that a Teletubby was gay. According to Falwell, the triangular growth on Tinky Winky’s head and his purple color were symbols of his gayness. Who knew? More importantly, who cares? 

Well, I guess the right cares. People of color are marching all over their incredibly limited imaginations. Of course, that’s why they’re conservatives. They can’t imagine a better world or a more inclusive society, because theirs is just fine as it is, thank you very much.

The episode also reminds me of a Phil Donahue Show episode with women members of the Ku Klux Klan. When one of the women railed against Jews, Donahue said “Well, Jesus was a Jew.” The Klan lady shouted back. “He was not! Jesus was a Christian!” 

Which gets to another point. The same people fretting over Black Hobbits and Black mermaids are also worshipping a White Jesus. They’ve made Him in their image when, in fact, he almost certainly had darker skin and curly hair with brown eyes. I haven’t heard the right complaining about the portrayals of Jesus as a blue-eyed white guy with long, flowing hair. 

They also never complain about White actors portraying Native Americans or Egyptians or Moses or anybody else. No, their outrage is limited to people of color encroaching on their White view of the world. They just can’t imagine that other people might see the world differently than them. 

Fortunately, we are living in an increasingly diverse society. The musical Hamilton uses Black actors to portray White Founding Fathers and it’s a masterpiece. Not only did the show entertain America with its score and performance, it spurred an interest in the time period, encouraging more people to learn about our beginnings. Hamilton celebrated the founding of our nation while underscoring the complicated history of race without mentioning it during the play.   

We should be celebrating our diversity, not diminishing it. Look at the faces of little Black girls as they see an Ariel who looks like them. Watching awe and joy like that is a gift. If it’s offensive to some conservatives, they’ve got the animated version to keep them happy.


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