‘The Little Mermaid’ Makeup Artist Defends Against Criticism About Drag Influence

The makeup artist behind the character designs for Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ remake, Peter Smith King, has responded to criticism about the lack of inclusion of the drag community in the character design process. Many fans and influencers took to social media to question why the job wasn’t given to a queer artist. However, King disagrees with those criticisms and finds it offensive. He said, ‘Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist? That’s ridiculous. That’s trying to claim it and that’s fine, if that’s what they wanna do. But don’t put people down because they’re not what they want it to be.’ King also clarified that, while he is a fan of drag culture, he didn’t pull directly from any existing performers when designing the live-action Ursula.

When Disney announced the remake of ‘The Little Mermaid’, many fans were excited to revisit the property with a critical perspective they may have lacked as children. The discourse revolved around the influence of drag culture on the original film, and the character of Ursula was shaped by iconic 20th century drag queens like Divine. Melissa McCarthy acknowledged this influence when she signed on to play Ursula in the remake. ‘There’s a drag queen that lives in me,’ McCarthy said. ‘I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her… To keep the humor and the sadness and the edginess to Ursula is everything I want in a character — and frankly, everything I want in a drag queen.’

While Marshall’s remake topped the box office this weekend, reviews have generally been critical of the film’s inability to establish its own aesthetic and recapture the magic of the original. Disney’s obsession with turning some of its most beloved properties into live-action offerings simply for the realism, technology, or money stumbles into both flashes of brilliance and moments of sheer nonsense. That trend will likely continue to be true for the foreseeable future, but until the House of Mouse cracks the real problem at hand, these films will never become classics on their own merit.


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