Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?

by michelle on September 12, 2013 · 1 comment

Earlier today, there was some awesome conversation happening on twitter and also on Not Raising Brats about the rerelease of The Little Mermaid and how Michelle was hesitant to take her daughters to see it because Ariel is not exactly a great role model. She makes a VERY valid point – Ariel gives up her voice to be with a man. But then Ashley, Hillary, and Dash all had really great points.

But I feel like maybe there’s more to the Ariel – Eric story than that.

Isn’t he dreamy?

There’s a lot of chatter about princesses and little girls – how the idea of the Disney Princess story isn’t necessarily the one we all want our children latching on to as a life lesson. The stories almost always focus on the woman leaving behind her life for the life of a man. Some argue that Belle enters an abusive relationship. Others believe that Ariel giving up her voice for a man is a terrible example (it is!). We listen to songs about how “some day my prince will come”, as if women need to wait for a prince to come save them from their lack-luster life.

I feel you, man.

I TOTALLY feel that using the Disney Princesses as role models is a very terrible idea. But here’s my personal story with Ariel. It was the first movie I remember seeing in theaters. I LOVED Ariel. I was obsessed with the movie. I owned the soundtrack, first on cassette tape, and then on CD. I know all the words to the songs STILL. I bought an old Disney reader of the movie for Jonas, and he loves it. I was Ariel in my grandparent’s pool. I reenacted scenes with my cousins every time we could. We watched it on repeat. Chris bought me an old DVD copy from ebay many many moons ago because it was “in the vault” (stupid damn disney), and and it is one of my most treasured things. I mean, it’s truly my favorite of the princess movies. Seconded by Sleeping Beauty, then Beauty and the Beast. I was obsessed with the movie. But I never ever wanted to be Ariel, or even like Ariel. I’m not sure how, but I think at even a young age, I realized that severely disappointing my parents, going to a sea witch, giving up my voice (this is key, here) weren’t things I ever wanted to do in life.

As I got a little older, I remember being ANGRY at Ursula for telling Ariel that men don’t like conversation, they don’t want to listen to women, and that women were just basically pretty accessories to them. I felt so sorry for Ariel, such a young girl.

Anyway. She fell in love with a man. Her father doesn’t approve of man. She tried to hide it from her father, but stupid Sebastian tattles on her. He destroys the things that she believes give her life meaning. In her darkest moment, a couple of thugs come and convince her that Ursula has the solution, and poor impressionable in love Ariel makes a VERY TERRIBLE decision at the advice of a very bad person. She gives up her voice for legs so that she can be with Eric.

We all know the story, but I really think the important thing to remember in this story is that when Ariel gives up her voice, essentially herself – the thing that she’s known for!, she doesn’t get what she wants. She doesn’t get Eric. When she gives up her self for a man, she doesn’t get the man. But in the end, she finds her voice, stands up to the Sea Witch, saves Eric and King Triton, and then her father realizes that Ariel’s happiness is important, and gives their relationship his blessing.

I don’t know when, I don’t know how…

I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with princess movies, as long as the children obsessing over princesses can have discussions with someone in their lives about which actions were smart actions, and which actions were very, very bad decisions. I don’t even think this talk has to be centered around the princesses themselves. I don’t remember ever having that sort of discussion with my parents, other than the occassional reminder when I was young that movies were just movies, that they aren’t real. I don’t remember any actual discussion about whether or not Ariel was an appropriate role model, but I do remember discussions about what makes a good decision, and right from wrong, and being true to yourself no matter what. And I think Ariel is a great example of being true to yourself no matter the circumstances, and also a great example to never lose your voice for anyone. I’m feeling like maybe I’m not explaining this as well as I would like to, but there’s my word vomit about Ariel, The Little Mermaid. Who I adored as a child. But recognized that signing a contract with a Sea Witch was never a good idea.


It’s not a post about Ariel without this image.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Deanna September 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

WORD. I totally agree–I think my girls are perfectly capable of loving princesses and Disney princess movies and all that jazz, and still not wanting to actually BE a Disney princess. I wasn’t super into princessy stuff as a kid, but my girls are, and I love it with them. They want to wear pink and purple fluffy dresses and watch Cinderella a hundred times a week, but they entertain no thoughts about the men in those movies. All that male dominance and white-knighting and repression that adults are so quick to see in some of these stories? Doesn’t mean a darn thing to my girls…they just want a pretty dress and crown to wear while they play t-ball in the front yard.

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