I’m 37-years-old now, but in 1989, I was seven- and eight-years-old. After having a daughter myself who has gone through these years (now 11 and much too mature), I can tell you with great certainty they are the PRIME Disney Princess years. Sure, my three-year-old is obsessed with Elsa and all things Frozen. But at eight, you can start the movie yourself (whether it’s on VHS or Disney+). You can find all kinds of Halloween costume options. And, if you were me in 1989, you could play the soundtrack cassette in your room over and over and OVER again until you had every word and note memorized. (2020 version: even my three-year-old can ask Alexa to play “Into the Unknown” and somehow Alexa speaks three-year-old and totally does it.)
I thought Ariel was perfect in all her ’80s-bangs-redheaded glory. She had a dream and she lived it out! She fell in love at first sight and got Prince Eric to take her on a romantic boat ride even though she couldn’t talk. She had adorable animal sidekicks and dresses with huge shoulders.
I never would have imagined when I was learning “Part of Your World” in my bedroom in Elkhart, Indiana, that I would someday cringe every time my kids watch The Little Mermaid. In fact, it’s right up there with Snow White as my least favorite Disney movie now. (Although, truly, can you beat “Under the Sea” for a family dance party?) All of the things that made Ariel seem like a heroine when I was eight now make her seem like a pinhead.
I’m now firmly on #TeamTriton.
Ariel: “I’m 16! I’m not a child anymore!”
Me: Wrong, Ariel. You’re just wrong. This mom is here to tell you that your brain is not fully developed and running off to chase after a man you’ve only seen — not to mention one of another species — is just a plain bad idea. I’m guessing perhaps you might have consulted one of your many older sisters instead of a fish, and they could’ve helped you realize that changing for a man is never a good plan.
Ariel: “If I become human, I’ll never be with my fathers or sisters again.”
Ursula: “That’s right. But you’ll have your man.”
Me: NO. JUST STOP IT. Remember how this is a man YOU HAVEN’T EVEN SPOKEN TO, ARIEL????? If you have to leave your family behind to be with a man, maybe you should think longer than the length of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” before you make the decision!
Exhibit C: Where We See Ariel Is Not the Only Insane Person Here
Prince Eric: “I’m gonna find that girl…and I’m gonna marry her.”
Me: I’m sorry, what world are we living in where it would be a great idea to marry a girl because she rescued you and left you laying on the beach but didn’t hang around long enough to tell you her name? I mean, yes, it’s great that she saved your life. That would make a beautiful story to tell your children. IF you knew anything else about her or could even recognize her in a crowd…because when you think Vanessa is her, we know you think all women with big hair and breasts look exactly the same.
All the supposedly “grown-up” characters (I guess just Triton and Sebastian) also need a slap on the wrist and maybe a course in Kind but Firm Parenting.
Ariel misses the concert she is supposed to star in. But “it’s not her fault!” (It is.) (She’s directly disobeying her father’s orders not to go to the surface and that’s why she misses it. MAYBE HE HAS REASONS, Ariel.)
Perhaps Triton should have taken Ariel for a little walk and had a heart-to-heart, explaining how he’s lost his wife and he doesn’t want to lose her as well. P.S. Humans eat fish. P.P.S. Humans have a weird fascination with mermaids but I don’t think they actually want to meet one. P.P.P.S. Given that all mermaids in literature up to this point are decidedly freaky and scary, especially.
Maybe Triton should have grounded Ariel and actually, like, followed through and not just sent Sebastian to do all the dirty work. Maybe Sebastian should’ve done less singing and remember that teenagers have a super short attention span, even in the pre-smart-phone era.