Hans Christian Anderson told this story about a young maiden in love with a hansome prince. She determines to have him at all costs, forsaking family and all that is familiar to her, propelled by infatuation into the all-too-common assumption that if she has the right physical appearance she will win him over. Conspicuously enough, she has never spoken with him, and therefore thinks nothing of bargaining away her voice for a pair of feet so she can go after him, which in the classic story, cause her terrible pain whenever she walks. That’s where the modern Disney interpretation starts to make its departure- HCA makes it a point that she suffers pain for her new look, which turns out to be a wasted sacrifice. She’s no different to lover boy than all the other girls around him, except for her hopeless inability to contribute to the conversation and he flutters off after some other girl. After his wedding, her sisters bring her a knife. They inform her that if she kills him and his new wife, she can return to the sea and become a mermaid again. Get it? Kill off the fantasy, and go back to your roots. But she can’t; she approaches him with the knife, and runs off to fall into the sea, dissipating into foam. Thus ends the little mermaid princess. She lost the man she wanted, because she never understood him and hoped that she could get by on looks. After she failed, she wouldn’t give him up and her life dissolved into nothingness.
It’s a horrific cautionary tale to young girls everywhere. Looking good isn’t enough to keep a relationship alive, living a fantasy will never allow you to be fulfilled as an individual… the morals are numerous and obvious.
Contrast that unfortunate creature with her modern counterpart:
When the Disney movie hit theaters, I adored it. I filled countless notebooks and homework papers with mermaid drawings, and practiced swimming like a mermaid (hair tossing upon breaking the surface was a must). I was aware that the story glorified selfish behavior, but it was pretty enough that pretty beat out irresponsible (and it was JUST a MOVIE). As an adult, I find myself kinda sorta battling with that in my classroom. I love the toys and books and my kids like them too, but I see much nastier messages in the story that I didn’t pick up as a child. This character puts everyone around her at risk so that she can have what she wants. She decides she loves someone although she knows nothing about him. As it happens, he is a mindless hunk-o-matic who, like any good prince, exists only to be dashing and to fall in love, but after she creates the entire relationship without any effort from him, and after she sacrifices the well-being and emotional peace of her family, and after she has gotten herself into such enormous trouble that an entire kingdom is now in danger, he suddenly becomes a participant in the story and whoops up the villain before going back to mindlessly adoring her. In the end, her father sadly admits that she was right all along, and she gets an awesome fantasy wedding complete with paternal blessing and rainbow. Yaaay! Seriously, is that anything like reality?
Am I being ridiculous?
I find it ironic that the message is the polar opposite of the original story, but is it really that bad? I’m a little bit serious about that- Ariel is super bratty and she never has to pay for her outrageous treatment of everyone around her, so should we be warning our little girls against her, or can we just be okay with a person getting away with brattiness?