I need to say a few things about Defending Disney Part One: I personally don’t think it was my best piece of work. Not after reading comments (because, come on, not all of them were negative to begin with), but pretty much since I pressed ‘submit for review’ I was on the fence about it. It wasn’t researched very well and the arguments weren’t very good. I’m glad that some of you lovely ladies seemed to have liked it, but I do feel the need to say that the article was written quite some time ago, and my feelings towards a majority of those Disney princesses have changed. In short, I’m starting to agree with the ‘offenders’ these days, but that doesn’t mean I’m letting negative views ruin my fun when watching the movies. Every story does have a basic moral to it that the intended audience can grasp fairly easily (ex. Beauty and the Beast- don’t judge someone based on their appearance). And honestly, I work with a multitude of children day and night and watch them grow up as the years go on: none of them seemed to be all that ruined by the ‘subtext’ of any Walt Disney film to begin with.
Someone did mention that Disney didn’t even come up with these stories to begin with, that they just took folk tales and books and turned them into 90 minute movies, which is certainly something to take into consideration when forming an opinion. It is also important to remember that Disney didn’t go word-for-word on said fairytales, and the way they portray the story differs from the way that the original author intended it to be.
All of that being said, there is one princess I will probably defend to the death, because this movie alone definitely taught me things that make me who I am today. What I learned when I was five, what I learned re-watching it at seventeen, and all the years in between, all components of the person I call ‘me’. So without further rambling, I give you the actual article:
” Why is Ariel on your list of inspiration people? She was stubborn, irresponsible, selfish, and put her entire kingdom in danger. Not to mention she basically gave up her ability to speak and voice an option for a boy.”
These are all very valid points. However, I feel like all of these things really do tie into a positive manner that we can all relate to. (This point I will discuss later)
Now, obviously this post was brought up after I received inquires about my new red tresses, but I’ve been meaning to defend Ariel as a role model for quite some time. One thing you absolutely have to understand was she was always my favorite disney princess, since I was old enough to comprehend what a princess was. Literally, I stood in front of the tv, and when she moved her hand, I moved my hand. When she sang, I sang. On cue. Every day. So these points I’m about to make are clearly biased to an extreme extent. Then again, all we’re really talking about is whether or not she’s a good role model, a concept which is based on opinion alone, and all opinions are biased. I’m not going to get into the logistics of it.
The predominant reason I find Ariel to be just an outstanding person that she has a dream and she goes for it. She doesn’t dilly dally, she doesn’t ‘go with the flow” and wait to see what happens, she doesn’t wait for the opportunity to come to her. She sees something that she wants, and she goes out to get it. It doesn’t matter if we, the audience, think her dream is stupid, if Sebastian and her father is consistently trying to deter her, she goes for it. And she not only did she have to go out way out of her comfort zone (have you seen Ursula’s Cove? SKETCHY), but she also had to break boundaries and take a huge risk in order to achieve what she had set out to do.
And I feel like that’s something a lot of us don’t do. We want to be risky, but we also don’t want to get hurt. We want to take the chance, but we don’t want to face the consequence if things don’t turn our way. We want to break boundaries, but it’s hard with everyone bringing us down. So we wind up complacent and stagnant and waiting for an opportunity. Ariel didn’t do that, she made the opportunity for herself, she took the chance, and she faced the consequences when things didn’t turn out the way she had planned.
Another small thing I really love about Ariel is her pursuit of knowledge and understanding of a culture that is different from her own, that contradicts her father’s beliefs and what he had taught her. I feel like this is, on a small scale, a demonstration that she does have a mind of her own and will not settle for hearsay before forming an opinion.
Lastly, and this is the part that I had mentioned in the beginning, she may very well have been stubborn. She very well may have bee irresponsible and selfish. And her actions very well may have put her entire kingdom into danger. This is clearly extreme Disney dramatization, because what’s a plot without a little conflict? And while all of these things appear to be negative, they have only taught me one thing: It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to have flaws. When we’re young, we idealize these princesses and when we get older we become cynical and point out their flaws because they’re not as perfect as we thought they were. And then we stop liking them because they’re people too (in a sense).
We do this with real life people all the time. We make friends, we find about about a few seedy things they may have said and done, and then we’re not as close to them, or we’re slightly off put. So it really doesn’t come as a surprise to me that we do this with fictional characters as well. But the point being that Ariel had some flaws and made some poor choices, big whoop.
And while giving up her voice for a pair of leg is very well indeed one of those poor choices, I think it paints a pretty realistic picture. You have to sacrifice things to get what you want. However, when I was just a little girl, who was being ‘ruined’ with all this ‘disney subtext’ by being told by this movie my opinion doesn’t matter, I always thought that the reasoning behind Ariel sacrificing her voice was not to illustrate that she has nothing of importance to say, but that actions speak louder then words and talk is cheap, so Ariel was unable to win him with words and talk her way into Eric’s heart, rather she had to show him that she was something special. An when I was seventeen, watching it yet again, I noticed that the movie’s villian was the one who openly endorsed the idea that ladies should be seen and not heard, and we’re not supposed to agree with the movie’s villian.
And if he was smart enough to see how fantastic she is, awesome. If he didn’t, then she probably wouldn’t want to be with him in the long run anyway. Who wants to be with someone that doesn’t notice how amazing you are? Exactly.
Granted, if she doesn’t get him to fall in love with here in a mere three days she turns to some shrub in Ursula’s cove, but the chances of some little girl being in that situation is slim, said little girl will have a choice a to whether or not to pursue a relationship with someone that won’t possibly end in her turning into a sea plant or whatever.
And Eric didn’t fall in love with her at first. He fell in love with her voice. Hence he was easily tricked and put under a spell by Ursula/Vanessa, because he was too busy trying to find the girl with the girl with the voice instead of realizing what a prize he had right in front of him.
I would hope that we are at a stage in life where we have an understanding of things that should and shouldn’t be given up in that circumstance and don’t make life descisions based directly from the plot of Disney’s Little Mermaid, but I do think there are quite a few wonderful things that she can teach girls of all generations.