Overheard: The Little Mermaid and Feminism

I hear a lot of interesting things walking around campus. Today I heard something particularly interesting. A girl who was talking to a another girl said, “I think The Little Mermaid is the most anti-feminist movie of them all.” One, The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie (alongside Beauty and the Beast) and I don’t think it’s the most anti-feminist of them all. Sure, it’s no Mulan or anything, but seriously, think about it…

Ariel isn’t a Disney princess who needs kissed by Prince Charming to save her, she even sings,

“Bet’cha on land they understand
That they don’t reprimand their daughters
Proper women sick of swimmin’
Ready to stand.”

She is adventurous and wants to be outside of a world (the sea) she is trapped in. She is constantly standing up against and fighting her father, a man who wants to keep her away from standing, which is what she really wants to do. Ariel is a presented as a girl who wants to learn about another world, apart from her own. Now, don’t get me wrong, she is definitely not a model for feminism, but The Little Mermaid is hardly “the most anti-feminist movie of them all.” After all, Ariel does save Prince Eric from drowning, he doesn’t save her. In a way, he is the damsel in distress and she is the heroine.

Also, another main part of the story with some important social commentary is the loss of Ariel’s voice. Women now more than ever certainly have a voice and opinion in things, but as we see in Ariel’s case it is something that can be easily lost. Her voice was her most valuable asset and when she lost it, she almost lost her Prince. When Ariel got her legs, she lost her voice. This could be a stretch, but that could symbolize women’s desire to have it all: the perfect home, husband, job, and family. Once you have one part of your dream, you lost the other part. Unless of course, you live in a perfect world, like in Disney.

The tale ends like any other Disney movie, Prince Eric and Ariel fall deeply in love and live happily ever after, which is may not exactly be representative of feminism, but it is definitely nice to think about.


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