Defending Disney Part Two: The Little Mermaid

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Author’s Note

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:

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Defending Ariel

” 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.

Defending Disney

I hate seeing pictures and hearing girls’ comments about how Disney deceived them for life by telling them that every girl will get their prince charming. Disney didn’t deceive anyone, at least… Not the way you would initially think.

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Upon seeing this, as a girl who was raised on these movies, who BEGGED for the VHS ( do you guys remember those? They were like black bricks and you put them in the thing. Nothing was more tragic then when your player ate the film inside?) of Sleeping Beauty, knew all the words to all the songs in The Little Mermaid.
When I saw this, my entire childhood shattered.
Until I realized how one-sided this picture is.

In the words of Walt Disney, about Cinderella to start with, “She believed in dreams all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn’t come along, she went over to the palace and got him.”
Because more then one person needs to put in the effort for a happy ending.

Or Belle. Who doesn’t save the beast’s life with her sexual interest as the picture depicts. He is saved by her love.
Because you need to love and be loved for a happy ending.

While Ariel’s story in the picture is quite true, she had changed her appearance to win the affections of the prince, paying the price of her voice. The part about her having nothing valuable to say…Well I just don’t think that’s right.
Oh! But before we think that Ariel is totally helpless, lets remember she saved Prince Eric’s life not once, but twice. Once while he is drowning, and once more as he is about to marry Vanessa/Ursula.
Eric suspects that she’s (Ariel) is the one that saved him as he meets her on the shore, but quickly disregards said suspicion because she can’t talk.
You know, because you have to talk to be able to swim and save someone from drowning right? Right? Sorry this guy’s kinda a moron. But that’s neither here nor there.
She sacrifices her tail and voice to be with Prince Eric. And proves perfectly capable without them, so long as she has her friends, and saved him from Vanessa/Ursula’s grip.
Point being, every happy ending costs something. You can’t get there without sacrificing.
Also, you can do anything with your friends. We-as humans- were not MADE to journey alone.

Jasmine, from the get go, was angered that people were treating her like a trophy. Alladin had to win her heart, she didn’t just throw herself at him.
Sleeping Beauty and Snow White weren’t saved by their physical appearance. Snow White was saved by her compassion for others ( in her case, the Dwarves), and Sleeping Beauty had a spell casted over her where she would sleep. So what the hell was she going to do? SOMEONE had to go get her, might as well be the Prince. If he didn’t go through the thorns and slay the dragon…Well then he wouldn’t have deserved a girl like her.
Actually Sleeping Beauty and Snow White is kinda where this arguement falls short because I hadn’t cared for either of those movies when I was younger, but the point is:
You have to respect yourself to get to a happy ending.

Disney deceived no one. Stop blaming multi-billion dollar franchises for your lack of dates and focus on something other then boys. All of these girls knew that one day they would fall in love, and they didn’t toss themselves at everyone until they found Mr. Right. Cinderella cared for her friends, Belle read books, Ariel was fascinated by human life, Jasmine had a f*cking tiger so if that’s not some form entertainment I don’t know what is. Princess Tatiana even had a GOAL that didn’t involve getting married. In fact, she even cared about hygiene, she  definitely didn’t want to kiss that frog.

Oh, not to mention that nothing that comes out of Disney is original, all their movies are based off of books and folk tales. But it’s easier to just point one finger, I guess. That’s a whole different playing field.