This Week in Fandom, Volume 115

Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! Before we get started, Stranger Things season 3 was released on Netflix this week! Did you guys enjoy the season’s 80s aesthetic? How do you rank it compared to seasons 1 & 2? Feel free to take the (spoiler-cautious!) discussion to the comments.

One hot discussion in fandom this week has focused on Disney’s ongoing series of live-action remakes of its classic cartoons. This week saw a key casting announcement for The Little Mermaid (due to start production in April 2020) and the release of a new teaser trailer for Mulan (which should appear in theatres in March 2020).

Taking The Little Mermaid first: we learned this week that Halle Bailey, one half of R&B sister act Chloe x Halle, will be appearing in the role of Ariel. The news that a black actress would be cast in a role drawn as white in the 1989 cartoon prompted a predictable and unfortunate backlash from a vocal minority online, but Bailey-supporting fans rapidly co-opted the discussion by suggesting that for true accuracy the role should have gone to ‘a real mermaid’, reminding others that the Disney Little Mermaid is itself a transformative work, and suggesting that according to contextual clues, Ariel makes more sense as a Caribbean than as a Danish princess.

Bailey also gathered support from fellow celebrities, including near-namesake Halle Berry and original Ariel voice actress Jodi Benson, as Disney-owned TV network Freeform posted a spirited defence of the actress on its Instagram page.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Mulan movie has been causing controversy as the trailer suggests that it will step away from the cartoon’s animal sidekicks and musical numbers in favour of a more serious take on this story of a young woman fighting for her family and her country in Han dynasty China. Director Niki Caro – the second woman, after Ava DuVernay, to direct a $100 million+ Disney production – seems to have opted for an interpretation closer to Hua Mulan, the Chinese poem in which the original story appears.

Some fans have been mourning the absence of Mushu the dragon (voiced by Eddie Murphy) and of Mulan’s love interest Li Shiang, who is apparently to be replaced in this edition by a rival soldier, Chen Honghui. Others (including actress Cindy Chu) expressed excitement about the possibility of an interpretation which offers a more nuanced approach to the Chinese culture with which it is engaged.

Also since our last edition, HBO’s new teen series Euphoria caused a stir in fandom with an episode that dealt with one of its female characters’ slash fic and featured an animation of her Harry Styles/Louis Tomlinson smut. Tomlinson, who has previously discussed his discomfort at being included in RPF shipping, spoke out on Twitter against the decision to include the storyline, telling a curious fan that:

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the show’s creator Sam Levinson described the scene as exploring a ‘burgeoning curiosity about sexuality that’s ultimately framed through the lens of fan fiction’ and ‘allowing [the character’s] wishes to come true’. For many One Direction fans, however, the scene appears to have been anything but; writing on Twitter, Larry shippers criticised what they saw as the violation of an important boundary between fan spaces and the public sphere.

Polygon posted an article exploring the controversy, which is certainly not a new one where this particular ship is concerned.

And finally, the latest addition to the Marvel cinematic universe appeared with the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Set in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, the movie follows Tom Holland’s Peter Parker as he attempts to deal with the death of his mentor Tony Stark as well as the appearance of a new superhero, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio. Although the movie hasn’t received quite the rapturous reception afforded to its predecessor, Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s still been widely praised (sitting at a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes against the original’s 92%) and opened with the box office’s largest ever first Tuesday take.

Of course, the movie’s cast have been doing the promotional rounds, appearing on television, radio and internet interviews over the last few weeks – and if you only watch one of these, you should really make it Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal on BBC Radio One. Gyllenhaal’s defence of Sean Paul against an unimpressed caller has been putting a smile on our faces all week.

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This Week in Fandom

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