Deconstructing Disney: Stray Thoughts About The Little Mermaid

Posted: September 2, 2014 by Sam in Animation, Movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Little Mermaid

I feel like going on a Disney kick right now. In light of the recent controversy surrounding Princess Merida and Disney’s most recent statement not to back down from using her revamped image for marketing purposes, I thought I’d muse a little bit about another movie starring a red-headed princess, The Little Mermaid.

Now my aim is not to hate on the film. I clearly remember loving it as a child, but as I’ve grown up and re-watched it, there are a couple of thoughts that spring to mind when you consider Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s relatively dark fairy tale. And since I clearly have a lot of time on my hands and, unlike Paul McCartney, no hole to fix, my mind has wandered to these thoughts that I will now share with you. It’s really for the best since they’re just taking up space that could be better put to use on some other rant-based article.

In terms of the overall story, I’m not really going to delve into that aspect, though I would recommend watching the Nostalgia Chick’s video about The Little Mermaid since she does make some excellent points about character development and yadda, yadda, yadda. If I were to sum it up: Ariel gives up everything for a guy she just met, makes a bad deal with Ursula, her father Triton learns a lesson while Ariel learns nothing and gets what she wants. The end! Yeah, I’m not looking to do what’s already been done. Nope, these are just some extra tidbity thoughts for you to consider. That, or I’m about to ruin your childhood.

Sorry? You’re welcome? Anyway, here we go!


What About Ariel’s Sisters?

Remember how Ariel was late to that whole concert thing in honor of her father, Triton? Remember who was singing his praises before everyone realized Ariel wasn’t sitting in her scallop ready to display “her voice that’s like a bell?” That’s right, Ariel’s six older sisters! (Side Note: It’s really Sebastian’s fault for not checking that ALL of the daughters of Triton were present and accounted for. Seriously, who puts on a concert without checking all of the performers are there?)Daughters_of_Triton

So Ariel has six older sisters: Attina, Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Adella, and Alana. They all give a lovely little display of their own singing abilities before bestowing praise on their youngest sister as the greatest gift to mer-kind. Other than the very brief scene where her sisters pick up on the fact that Ariel’s in love, we don’t see them again until the end of the movie at Ariel and Eric’s wedding. Now, if I were any one of the older sisters, I’d be just a bit peeved with the amount of attention Ariel gets. Their father clearly favors her since he’s really concerned with just about everything she does (he’s also super controlling), puts all of his resources into finding her when he thinks she’s – for lack of a better term – run away from home, and he gives up his trident and power to get her out of the deal with Ursula – thus condemning the entire kingdom to ruin over an idiot teenager’s dumb decision. I mean…is Ariel really that important? You’ve got six other well-behaved daughters who seem pretty content with being mermaid princesses. Then again, we don’t really know much about them, so I’m sure at least one of them could have a surly attitude if Triton bothered to pay attention.

Oh, and doesn’t that mean the eldest daughter, Attina, is next in line to rule Atlantica? Shouldn’t there be some concern for her story since, assuming at least a year between children, she’s 22 and unmarried while her 16-year-old sister marries the first human guy she meets within five days of meeting him? I mean, by Disney standards, Attina’s a spinster and her other sisters aren’t exactly fighting off the merman suitors either. What the hell? Where’s Game of Thrones: Atlantica? Obviously Ariel’s human daughter (The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea) isn’t going to take over a kingdom under the sea, so one of those princesses has to become queen when Triton rolls over and rises to the surface to be picked up by fishing nets.

I’m just saying, if you wanted a new television show to cash in on the fantasy/royal politics fad going on right now, here’s your opportunity.


What Does Ariel Eat While on the Surface and What do Mer-People Eat?

We learn in the first five minutes that most fish and crustaceans are sentient. They sing and dance and have big eyes that make you feel sympathy for them should they become sad. I really can’t imagine Ariel laughing with a cod one minute and then stabbing a fork into it for supper. Firstly because she doesn’t know what a fork is and secondly because they have no means of cooking, so that would definitely be awkward. If that’s the case, then what do mer-people eat? I suppose if you don’t even know what fire is, then there isn’t a lot of cooking going on, so the only possibility is they eat a lot of kale. Like, that’s the only thing they can eat. Hang on a second, though, we see Ursula chomping down Chef Louison a little shrimp with big, scared eyes when we first meet her, so does that make her a cannibal? Or is it just to emphasize that she’s evil? Probably the latter.

Then there’s the hilariously horrific sequence in the kitchen in Eric’s palace where Sebastian is essentially traumatized by the sight of fish and crabs being stuffed, fried, boiled, broiled, and served on a silver platter. Managing to escape to the dining room where Ariel is dining with Eric and his Alfred equivalent, she manages to get Sebastian over to her platter through a cunning use of distraction. But if he hadn’t been on the chopping block, would she have eaten the stuffed crab? For that matter, if Eric’s kingdom is by the sea, and all of Ariel’s friends and family are fish or part fish, wouldn’t that make things a bit awkward when entertaining guests?

“How’s the tuna, Ariel?”

“I sang a song with him once. We were the best of friends. I had no idea how delicious he was!”

She’d either have to get over it pretty quick, or outlaw fish from being consumed, punishable by death. Hopefully the cows aren’t sentient or no one’s going to be able to eat anything!


How do Mer-People Reproduce?

Uh…yeah, I think the less thought put into that the better. Plus Futurama and Saturday Night Live kinda covered this territory.

Moving on!


The Entire Movie is Over in Ten Minutes If Ariel Bothered to Write a Note

One slight turn from the original story opens up a lot of plot holes. The biggest one being that, had Ariel bothered to write a note to Eric along the lines of:

Dear Eric,

Hi, my name is Ariel. Yes, I am indeed the girl who rescued you from the shipwreck and carried you to shore where you clearly saw me. While you did hear me sing, I’ve unfortunately come down with laryngitis and find myself unable to speak or sing. Luckily, I’m capable of writing and have thus saved you the time of trying to guess my name and believing I’m not the girl who rescued you when clearly you recognized me as the same girl, but dismissed me when you found out I couldn’t speak.


Ariel (which is my name)

…then maybe we wouldn’t have a movie. It’s kind of a big plot hole, actually, when you consider that not only does Ariel sign her name on the contract with Ursula, but she signs it in cursive. You don’t teach someone to write just their name in cursive. You teach them to write in cursive because it’s formal writing befitting of a member of a royal family. So, when she gets to the surface, why doesn’t she write something down and explain herself? It’s never explicitly stated that she can’t write about it, only that she gives up her voice in exchange for legs.Ariel's Signature

Unless it was in the fine print that Ariel also forgot how to read and write along with losing her voice, there’s nothing preventing her from communicating with Eric through other means. Even Ursula suggests body language! Semaphore, carrier pigeon, singing telegram, all of these are viable options! But if she couldn’t talk or communicate otherwise, then we wouldn’t have the entire second act of the movie or “Kiss the Girl,” so make of that what you will. The only other explanation is that Eric is a vicious ruler who has outlawed reading and writing from his kingdom! Which means a rag-tag group of freedom fighters is gonna have to ride into the kingdom and stop this villainy from continuing!


So that’s all I got. Like I said, just some things that have popped into my head from time to time. Either you found this entertaining, or your ready to burn me in effigy. Let’s just say I’m flattered regardless.

Until next time…

Hipster Ariel


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