One thing to know about me is I love the rise of a niche fashion trend and if Gen-Z can promise you anything, it is a curated look based on mood, age, movie or time in history. Aesthetic culture has dominated the For You pages for fashion and culture lovers with the meteoritic popularity of TikTok. A click into the #RockstarGirlfriend or #CoastalGrandma hashtag can be your stylish informant of the personal psyche of a niche community. So if you happen to be releasing a movie that stars one of the most aesthetically pleasing mythological creatures to grace the human imagination, my first piece of advice would be to see what the fashion girlies are saying on social media.
When Disney released the first trailer for Little Mermaid, the backlash was expected. Not only were racists having the worst day of their lives and horrified by their “unjust” loss of white female representation. The upcoming live-action set to premiere in May 2023, was also questioned for its anti-feminist storyline and its lack of relevance to an audience who have become more familiar with the princesses who save themselves.
From Frozen’s Elsa to Moana, Disney has made a concerted effort to create aspiring role models for fairytale lovers. Although it is touching and incredibly important to see the Little Mermaid be led by the talented Halle Bailey and to witness this moment in little Black girl representation history. If the new movie is anything like the source material, there is nothing alluring about a female character who trades their identity to literally be somebody’s wife. Arial is not a feminist icon, in today’s terms, she is the ultimate pick me.
So how does Disney brace for the incoming storm of criticism that may be more than just social media trolls but lead to a negative downturn in the film’s viewership? The answer is that they need to cement themselves into social media’s obsession with aesthetic culture and subvert the story of The Little Mermaid through content creators in the fashion and beauty category.
#Mermaidsleaze is the lovechild of #mermaidcore and #indiesleaze. It combines the recognisable aquatic staples of floor-length gowns reminiscent of the mermaid form, shell-adorned under-garments and accessories that replicate the iridescent treasures that can be found in the depths of the sea floor. The ‘sleaze’ element subverts the traditional mermaid portrayed in popular media and transforms her into an underwater siren with the use of darker materials and distressed edges, as seen in Blumarine’s Resort 2023 collection. Models walked down the runway wearing skirts that mimicked the waves of the ocean and elevated denim classics that were cut to resemble the mermaid tail.
This new take on the mermaid plays on the duality of femininity and the strength, intrigue and perhaps fatale element of the mythological creature. Adopting this trend through fashion and beauty, could be how Disney’s Little Mermaid turns from a feminist failure to a fashionable femme fatale figure. Although #mermaidsleaze hasn’t hit viral numbers…yet. There is already a clear interest in taking on the aesthetic, via the slightly problematic #sireneyes beauty trend and the rise of fashion brands like Di Petsa who have created their own interpretations of ‘just out of water’ looks with their iconic wet dresses, seen on Bella Hadid and FKA Twigs.
The essence of #mermaidsleaze is all about embracing the darkside. As a new generation dismantles past notions of what femininity means to them, the resurgence of a figure that was once clouded by a patriarchal world can now be reborn into a new era of empowerment, agency and radical self-acceptance.
This summer, we witnessed how aesthetic trends can have a huge impact on the perception of classic but dated characters. For example, #Barbiecore turned the summer of 2022 hot pink and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film starring Margot Robbie went from possible flop to the most memorable fashion and culture moment of the year. The aesthetic trend raised awareness and excitement for the film that is set to premiere in 2023. If Disney’s Little Mermaid uses the same formula, they have the opportunity to create an under-the-sea experience that a new generation of fans will not forget.