Purely My Opinion: The Little Mermaid

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic


I have loved the Disney princesses since I was 18 months old. The first movie I ever sat through was Disney's Beauty and the Beast. I have many collectables adorning my home, much to my husband and son's dismay, and when the anxiety or depression hits particularly hard, I turn on Cinderella. Each of the lovely ladies that the Walt Disney Company has introduced offer young children, girls or boys, a wide variety of hope in the most hopeless of situations. From 1937's Snow White to 2016's Moana and all the ladies in between (including the princesses not in the official line up) can mean so much to us living through the current turmoil of reality. 

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. In fact, I have been told by several people (mostly women), that my love of Cinderella and Belle is misplaced, and the only princesses in the line up that are 'acceptable' to see as role models are Mulan or Moana. I can understand why. Feminism is stronger than ever, and the latest films in the princess cannon feature the strong and independent women our society craves. And society has decided that all women must be the cookie cutter 'Mary Sue', career obsessed with very little interest in romance.

Ariel, protagonist of the 1989 film "The Little Mermaid", seems to get quite a bit of criticism because of how quickly she falls for the first handsome man she sees, eventually giving up her father, sisters, culture and voice to be with her potential interest at the tender age of 16. I can understand why people would think that her actions are impulsive. And the fact that she gave up one of her talents to be with said man seems a little far fetched. Many parents are hesitant to let their kids even watch the film, afraid that she sends the damaging message of changing your entire self to get into a relationship. Believe me, I understand. However, if you look beyond the surface, you may find a little more substance to the story. 

When we first meet Ariel, she is already quite fascinated with human culture. She spends her free time exploring sunken ships, and collecting the things she finds in them. She continues to return to the surface, doing her best to learn anything and everything she can. She is desperate to be part of it. She surrounds herself with artifacts that fuel her curiosity. So from the very beginning we know that she wants to be on the surface, before she even comes in contact with Eric. 

King Triton, Ariels father, is protective of his youngest daughter. This causes friction in their relationship. She knows there is more to humans than what her father sees. He, on the other hand, will not listen. He still sees her as a child, which in many ways she is. She's 16 after all. Quite a few people like to criticize the confrontation Ariel and Triton have when she insists:

"I'm sixteen years old. I'm not a child anymore."

I think many people miss that Ariel never claimed to be an adult. She simply stated that she is no longer a child that needs protecting. She is in-between child and adult. She's trying to figure out who she is, and she just wants a little bit a freedom to explore who she could be. I'm far from adolescence, though I do distinctly remember wanting my parents to start treating me as if I was a little older and not as a child. Ariel just wants her father to understand that she sees the world differently than he does. And the fact that he won't listen to her because he still sees her as a child is frustrating. Especially to a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. He is so stubborn that he chooses to crush one of his children's spirit by destroying her collection, refusing to open his mind and truly listen to her. It's only after this confrontation that Ariel chooses to leave and seek Ursula's help. 

Now you may be thinking that she still shouldn't have left her entire family behind as well as given up her voice just to get a guy. Which is true. However, she was in her most vulnerable state, and Ursula knew this. Ariel mentions not seeing her father and sisters again, making it clear that she does hold some concern for never seeing her family again. But she was not happy as a mermaid. She didn't feel as though she belonged in the sea. She took a great risk in finding out who she was. A rather bold and brave move, if you ask me. And yes, it cost her something big. Her talent. But did she really even care that she had the most beautiful voice of the mermaids? If I had a voice like that and wanted to show it off, then I certainly wouldn't have missed a concert designed to specifically show my talent off to others. Which she completely forgot about in favor of exploring a sunken ship. Additionally, when Ursula mentions the price for legs is her voice, Ariel's concern does not lie in the fact that she will never be able to sing again, but how she is going to get the prince's attention and get to know each other. Then again, we don't get to hear if the inability to sing again is one of her issues with being mute, as Ursula cuts her off, so this is pure speculation on my part. Though I am somewhat confident, since she never actually seems to care that she has this talent. 

Sure. Giving up your voice and your family just for 'a man' seems silly and naive. Especially for a young woman who has barely started her life. But at least she had the opportunity when she went to Ursula. An opportunity to experience the world she has always wanted to experience, as well as the chance to actually discover who she is outside of Triton's expectation, while falling in love. Nobody likes to live in the confines of someone else's agenda, so why is Ariel being ridiculed and criticized for taking a chance? Even if it was for a chance at romantic love? And I find the whole romantic love is the epitome of a woman's downfall to be rather cynical. Romantic love is seen as a way to keep woman subservient, but I find that to be a rather close minded. When Ariel first sees Eric, she sees someone handsome and playful. He's playing with his dog, and playing the 'snarfblat', dancing and living. She was drawn to his energy and simply wanted the chance to win his heart. Something that many of us do now. And considering the majority of people are in a romantic relationship with another, I would say that romantic love is definitely worth it. The chance to be in a loving relationship and to share your life with another person is not wrong. And that was all Ariel wanted. A chance. A chance to be understood by someone who can show her the things she has always wanted to see. 

I find it rather unfair of people to jump immediately to the giving up family argument. Sure, blood can run thicker than water. But what about the people who were miserable as children, being forced to be something they weren't? Encouraging those that suffered to stay with their family for the sole fact that they are your family is unfair. Was Ariel supposed to stay in the ocean, miserable and lonely for the rest of her life just to stay with Triton and her sisters? She doesn't spend much time with her sister's, and Triton has been treating her as if she were a child, refusing to listen to anything Ariel has to say. Of course he is just trying to protect her. But keeping her in a box and expecting her to live the way he expects her too is stifling. He destroys something she loves and worked hard to get in a manner of seconds, just because he was angry. Sure, he might have apologized. But in my experience, even if a parent might feel guilt over something they did to their child, that doesn't actually mean they will apologize. It will be buried under the surface, neither of them will bring it up, and their relationship will be strained and tense for the rest of their lives. She was surrounded by her family for the first half of the film, yet she was still unsatisfied and rather lonely I suspect.

I see and hear quite a few arguments for which is princess is the best role model. I've read the various articles, listened to the multiple podcasts, and watched the YouTube videos. Earlier princesses like Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora and Belle are all at the bottom of the list, the reasons varying since they all found their princes and were 'saved' by romantic love. I say that there is no one right princess because every human has different personalities and different journeys. Mulan is at the bottom of my list because I don't connect with her on a personal level. I would never be brave in that way because that's not who I am. I admire Cinderella because she stayed kind and optimistic even when it's hard. That's a different kind of bravery, though just as powerful.That's who I am. I value kindness. Trying to sort the princesses by their 'role model status' misses the point. Every girl and boy is different. And a person that admires Cinderella does not deserve to be ridiculed because Mulan is who society deems a better role model. 

Then again, that's purely my opinion. 


Submitted: October 30, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Elizabeth Trano. All rights reserved.

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88 fingers

The politically correct crowd is going after fantasies as well as speech. If you like something that gives you pleasure, something to take your mind off of the days event, indulge in it.
They are just movies. Doesn't mean you have to live your life like a Disney character.
Get a big bag of popcorn and something to drink and do some binge watching.

Fri, October 30th, 2020 9:23pm

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