As I’ve previously written in the first installment of this series long ‘editorial’ (if you will), the following posts are created to air out more or less, ‘adult’ grievances and flush out underlying (as well as obvious) themes that I’ve found while watching these childhood movies over again.
*Please Note: I do not ‘blame’ Disney for any of my findings, as these are films based on very old fairy tales, however, as Disney has animated them I will continue to say ‘Disney’ as a reference. **Also, not all cartoons animations of childhood fairy tales were the brain child of Disney, so I will attribute the production companies accordingly.*
This month’s installment includes my head scratching questions and off the wall theories about Disney’s favorite little fish The Little Mermaid.
I really enjoyed this movie as a girl. Jodie Benson did a fantabulous job with her vocals in this movie and how can anyone forget the song, “Part of Your World.” This adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale is pretty darn good, especially since in the original version the prince marries the woman he thinks is his ‘savior’ and The Little Mermaid, well… dies. In this version, we’re introduced to a precocious little red-head named Ariel who falls madly in love with a human. We’re given tons of wonderful colorful characters to love including Flounder the gullible guppy and Sebastian the musical crab. While, this is yet again one of my FAVORITE movies to watch — its musical content is enough of a reason to watch — I have some questions to ask:
Number 1: How are merpeople born? As they are these humanoid/fish creatures, I’ve always wondered if they were birthed like dolphins or laid like fish eggs…I mean really, tell me you weren’t wondering that too!
Next question: What is Disney’s fascination with girls growing up without mothers? This is the second movie (in my series) that has a main character without a mother. And in this movie, there is NO mention of Ariel’s mom, like she fell off the face of the earth. As a kid, I wondered where Ariel came from and I used to think that her father birthed her. I mean, if male seahorses could, then why couldn’t he right? I guess Disney realized people (such as myself) were looking at this antagonizing and abandoning portrayal of mothers, so two movies later we are given an explanation of the Queen’s death. I do wonder though, what the hell would’ve happened if she did have a mother alive during this whole ‘I’m in love with a human’ obsession. Would she tell Ariel that it was just a phase? Would she help her sneak to the surface?
In addition to a missing mother, this film also had me wondering where the hell it took place. Granted, it’s probably best to believe that for the most part the merpeople live in the Atlantic ocean because King Triton rules over ‘Atlantica,’ but the Atlantic Ocean is a BIG PLACE. And why is it that Sebastian seems to be the only underwater creature from the West Indies? Did he migrate across the ocean floor from the shores of Jamaica?
And is Atlantica the only mer-kingdom under the sea? Are there like Asian merpeople and latino merpeople? And do they speak in different languages? Like if I went to Japan, would I find an Asiatic mermaid that spoke Japanese?
Speaking of language, why are they speaking English? I mean, I know it’s for the sake of the movie that they are speaking English, but if they’re half-human, half-fish creatures, shouldn’t they be speaking some in squeaks like Daryl Hannah from Splash? They would have to break the sound-barrier underwater which would mean that in REAL life, Ariel’s singing would be a hot ear-bleeding mess. And while I’m on that train of thought…
Why is it that the shark that attacked Ariel and Flounder in the beginning of the movie couldn’t speak? He snarled and growled and chomped all over the place YET it seems like every other sea creature (and land creature) had the ability to sing during all the big musical numbers. Not to mention, Flounder and Sebastian spoke the entire movie. Really Disney? Someone dropped the ball on that one…
Another question: what country was Prince Eric from? I’m going to guess Denmark (as it is based on a Danish fairytale) but again, why is there a Jamaican crab near Denmark? And what is it with these damn Princes with no parents?! I mean, when Eric meets Ariel, and takes her to his palace, we don’t meet his parents. His parents weren’t even at the wedding! So if it’s safe to say his parents are non-existent, I mean, wouldn’t he be King Eric? (Slaps head)
Also, what do merfolk eat?
While I shouldn’t think that this movie condones anorexia, I don’t recall seeing Ariel eat once. The ‘Sea hag Witch’ Ursula was eating some scared looking shrimp thingies, but what do the ‘proper’ merpeople eat? Kelp? Seaweed? And I make mention of this because there’s the scene where the chef is trying to kill Sebastian and a live Sebastian runs off into Ariel’s plate when placed on the dinner table. What did Ariel eat, if not the lobster that should have been under her plate? Hmm…she couldn’t be a hypocrite and eat fish with Flounder being her bestie, and she probably couldn’t eat fowl meet as Scuttle was a bird and her digestive system probably wouldn’t be ready for such land and sky meat. Makes you think, was she a vegan?
Now while all these silly questions have been lurking about the dome, I did run into a more thought-provoking dilemma:
The entire plot of The Little Mermaid revolves around Ariel falling in love with Prince Eric, without even knowing him. No lie, I was kind of disturbed by this. I mean, I did my share of crushing from afar in high school, but I didn’t claim to ‘love’ someone I didn’t know (okay, that’s not true – I said I ‘loved’ Orlando Bloom and he doesn’t know I exist). Now, I know there wasn’t such a thing as the World-Wide-Underwater-Web, but seriously how is it that Ariel can love this guy after just looking at him without any real knowledge of what he was like? What if he was a litter bug or liked killing dolphins for sport? Would she still love him then? Then, I also think, how superficial was Eric? He liked a girl because of how she sang?
–“She had the most beautiful voice”–
Really? So if Whitney Houston sang to you on a desolate beach, would you fall in love too?
Okay, so it’s about that time that I start digging into the story and finding some serious thematic concepts hiding beneath the obvious. I found some startling themes that seemed to be resonating:
Theme One: Sometimes Stalking Can Land You ‘Happily Ever After’
While this doesn’t seem like the most sensible theme to come out of this movie, let’s face it: Ariel was kind of a stalker. She went to his ship and looked at him all night and then proclaimed to her daddy that she was in love with him after saving a man she’s never met except for a short while during his near-death coma. And it was this intense “love” for the prince that led to Ariel’s transformation, where she acted just like a stalker would: unbelievably awkward. I know that Ariel couldn’t talk, but that didn’t mean she had to just look at him all the time like a lost puppy. Like most stalkers, Ariel also almost killed Eric in that creepy carriage ride through the kingdom. But aside from stalking her beau and ruining his wedding (and foolishly diving into water she KNOWINGLY couldn’t swim in with her new legs), she saved his life again and once again stared at him from a rock in the ocean while he slept. And it all worked out for her in the end. She got her man. You see, perseverance does make a difference in your happiness!
Theme Two: Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
–“I’m sixteen years old daddy, I’m not a child anymore.” —
Well, this maybe the case for underwater international laws, but in the USA, you gotta be 17 to get married boo. BUT , it’s obvious that this is one of those movies that encourages young girls to believe that they can know ‘true love’ at any age…and after a day or two. While I think Ariel was just infatuated with Eric, she proved other wise, by forsaking all others and going after the man that she loved. Again, we find that true love conquers all even though she didn’t share a kiss with him until the end. We really don’t know if she had kissed him earlier in the boat, if she’d stay human…. (dum Dum DUM!)
Theme Three: Education Is Important
If it’s one thing that this movie teaches, is the importance of being well informed. Scuttle the seagull was nothing short of the ramifications of what happens when a child’s mind goes to waste. His ignorant knowledge of simple things like a fork and a pipe put Ariel at a disadvantage with the prince, and thus shortened her time getting the prince to fall madly in love with her. It also shows that if Ariel knew how to write anything other than just her name (again, in English), which she signed in the contract with Ursula, she probably could’ve written the prince a letter, telling him she was the girl who saved him from the shipwreck and that she gave her voice to be with him. That way, she would’ve been human, living with her shallow prince, happy as a clam.
Theme Four: Don’t Mess With Black Witches
Yes, you read that right. Now, I don’t know HOW intentional this was, but was it only me, or could Ursula have been black? Wait now just a second- think about it: She had a black outfit. She was the only “being” of ‘color’ and it was a dark-purplish hue. Not to mention, she was voiced by Pat Caroll and has this very husky almost “soulful” voice. She was super curvy, broke and into magic (aka VOODOO). Take it all in. And this isn’t the first time in a Disney movie, that “black” was associated with evil (I will go over this in a future post).
So what’s the point of this? Whenever you see a lady in black offering you a deal that’s too good to be true, run in the opposite direction. As a matter of fact, any woman (or man) who is of a certain “dark color” who offers up “magical gifts” never really want to help you out. It’s always in their benefit, so you’re better off finding your happiness on your own.
Theme Five: Homewrecking Haters Always Get Theirs
Again, not a theme I think Disney was trying to make… or was he. Anyway, this movie is a definite message to all the women out there who are in the habit of stealing other women’s men: back the *bleep* off! Even though Ursula’s ultimate goal was to use Ariel as a pawn in order to enact revenge on King Triton, she could’ve done that in a multitude of ways. She could’ve stalled the wedding until Sunset and then mysteriously disappear. She could’ve locked Eric in a room. She could’ve asked Eric for a tour around his kingdom until Ariel got all flipper again. But instead, she decides to MARRY him. Yup. Ursula knew she wanted to get a piece of the prince, who was she kidding? But what happened? She got burned, well stabbed. She took something, a man to be specific, that wasn’t hers by coercing him the same way most women do: by providing the guy with something his current woman is allegedly lacking. Think about it: all that Ariel was missing was her beautiful singing voice and Ursula played that hand like most women. “Oh your girl don’t appreciate you like I do.” “She don’t do this and that.”
But you see, Ariel prevailed in this instance. Not only did she get her man back, she proved to him that she was behind him and had his back 110% when Ursula tried to kill him. She had that loyalty which is what a lot of straying men tend to come back for in the end. Homewreckers always lose.
Theme Six: Treat Other People’s Pets With Kindness
This theme is really strong in this film, whether you want to believe me or not. Let’s start with Ariel- while we wouldn’t necessarily call Flounder “her pet,” the fact of the matter is he was the little Lamb to Ariel’s Mary. And when Flounder was being chased by that shark, Ariel did what she had to do to save that little guppy. Then fast-forward to Ursula at the end. I personally think if Ariel hasn’t caused Ursula to kill her pet eels Flotsam and Jetsam, she probably wouldn’t have turned into that giant sea monster in the end with a serious vendetta to kill Ariel. I know there are several people out there who treat their pets like babies and I mean, if you would kill for you baby then…you know…
And last but not least…
Theme Seven: The Youngest Always Gets Their Way
It’s universally known that the youngest in any household, tends to be the child that gets the most leeway and basically any thing they want. This proves entirely true in this film. Even though King Triton had six other daughters, he sacrifices his life and kingdom for his baby. He didn’t have a second thought about all the other daughters or even the dilapidation and ruin that would befall his kingdom under Ursula’s rule. Nope. He only thought of Ariel’s safety. And even after everything went back to normal, instead of punishing Ariel for all the trouble she caused, he grants her legs to live happily ever after with a human that he doesn’t know. I have a sinking suspicion, that if this was any of his other daughters, King Triton may not have been so kind. So, a word to the wise: if you’re the youngest in your brooding family, wrap your parents around your finger. You’ll always get what you want.
Creepy Side Note: Did anyone but me wonder what Ariel thought about her new lady parts? I mean when she got legs she obviously got something else too…if you know what I mean. Can you imagine her shock when she had to perform her matrimonial duties and make a baby?! (Shakes Head)