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The Little Mermaid

October 2, 2006

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You may have noticed recently a plethora of merchandise creeping into the stores that features Disney’s red-haired siren, The Little Mermaid. The movie is about to be released on DVD, and with it comes all of the mass merchandising — toys, bedding, food, costumes, even Band-Aids.

Much to my dismay, Sophia adores Ariel, the title character. I would much prefer that her favorite princess was Belle, the bookish but beautiful and compassionate heroine from The Beauty and the Beast. Or even Cinderella, whose tragic circumstances in life never seemed to get her down or make her vengeful or mean-spirited. But nooooo…. my little girl loves Ariel.

When I fist saw this movie (as a twenty-something without any children of my own), I thought it was good. Now, as an older woman who is raising a daughter, I am viewing it with a more critical eye. And I don’t like it. Let’s review the story, shall we?

Ariel is 16 years old and fascinated with humans. She rescues a young man from a shipwreck and drags him to shore, sings to him, and dives back into the water as he is waking up. She decides that she is in love with him and makes a bargain with the sea witch, Ursula, to become human for three days in order to win Eric’s heart. In exchange for the gift of legs, Ariel loses her voice. She has to make Eric kiss her by sunset on the third day or she will have to be the sea witch’s slave.

Eric knows he is in love with the girl who saved him and that he will recognize her by her beautiful voice. Ursula (the sea witch) shows up with Ariel’s voice, Eric thinks she is the one who saved him, dumps Ariel and gets set to marry her instead. Immediately. Then just as the sun is about to set, Ursula’s deception is revealed, Eric realizes that Ariel is in fact the one he loves and wants to marry, and after a brief but dramatic battle, Ursula is defeatd and Eric and Ariel are able to marry.

So, we have here a 16 year old girl and a young man who fall in love without knowing anything about each other and get married after just three days (most of which was spent without any substantial conversation because Ariel couldn’t talk). Could there be any more examples of bad decisions in this movie? I don’t think so.

Ariel is not one of my favorite Disney characters and I will admit that I have never read the Hans Christian Anderson story, so I don’t know how much of her is his creation and how much is Disney’s. But I do know that she is not a good role model for young girls today.

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One comment

  1. I’m sorry but I must disagree with you. While I completely understand where your concerns are coming from there are a few factors you haven’t taken into consideration. First, this movie was made in 1989 and was intended to attract an audience of both adults and children; the direct-to-DVD projects that Disney has been spewing out over the last several years are the ones that are geared toward children and a more positive note is evident in those films. TLM wasn’t intended to set examples for children or teach them good behavior, it was created for entertainment, bottom-line. Second, as for the Hans Christian Anderson version, it ends with the prince ultimately marrying the sea witch (in disguise of course) and the little mermaid dying and turning into a bunch of sea foam. Disney managed to keep true to this story whilst making the film more “appropriate” by giving it a happy ending; creating something very original whilst paying homage to its inspiration. Finally, I’d like to point out that the story line of TLM is just that…a story. Meeting a prince, love at first sight, living happily ever after, those are fantasy themes, not unlike the fantasy themes of many other television shows or movies that never seem to come under debate as much as TLM does. Stop analyzing the real life shortcomings of the movie and instead try and show your daughter the positives of it. Ariel embodies the free spirit inside all of us, the curiosity, the desire for adventure, the yearn to learn, and yes even the stubbornness. These are very attractive characteristics for young children as they can easily relate to them. Adults are are little more isolated towards these emotions as they tend to act with more professionalism, having long parted with those aspects of themselves when they entered “the real world.”
    In conclusion, you have no need to worry about what TLM may or may not do to your daughter. If you think its inappropriate, show her one of the more “kiddier” sequels but don’t attack the movie itself. Besides, in today’s world, there are a lot of other things I’d be worrying about for my daughter then her watching The Little Mermaid.

    Thank you for letting me speak my part.



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