What is really going on in “The Little Mermaid”?

One of the things we get to deal with as parents is the Disney princess machine. I think Disney has done a pretty good job remodeling the image of the prince, but the princesses haven’t moved nearly as far from their original incarnations. And even when the characters themselves are in some ways decent role models, the static image from the marketing department turns the focus to the most empty, superficial aspects of the character.

The Little Mermaid is almost an inverse of this maketing-undermines-message problem, in that the actual message of the film isn’t even directed at the film’s principle audience. As I say in my post about The Little Mermaid today at Babble, “Is Disney’s The Little Mermaid Just the Worst?”:

“Ariel, in other words, doesn’t grow. Triton grows, recognizing, in the end, the difference between maddened obsession and true love…”

The children who watch the film are presented with a charismatic role model who dreams big, and recklessly, and badly. And while the marketing usually plays up the static image of Ariel as someone who finds true love and whose dreams come true, this marketing message is very different from the message the film itself conveys to the audience that is supposed to identify with Triton, the character who does learn and grow: dads.

Ariel is the star of the show, though, so in that sense it is her character that is supposed to be the one bearing the important messages. What messages does she deliver?

Read more at Parenting Off the Map…

8 thoughts on “What is really going on in “The Little Mermaid”?”

  1. This makes me laugh because growing up the little mermaid was my absolute favorite. I watched it at least 1000 times and it’s still my favorite now that i have two kids of my own. I honestly don’t think I learned any message from any Disney cartoon or any cartoon really I learned from my parents and people around me. We have to make sure we are teaching our children good morals and values and they wont let something like the little mermaid being defiant towards her father influence them. I will say though me and my cousin used to sing Ariel’s songs and fight over who was better ;) haha

  2. I have to be honest, I dislike pretty much EVERY disney movie… even as a kid…. I will never understand why each one has to have a least ONE nightmare inducing scene (my niece had nightmares for weeks following Nemo) and I hated the octopus in the Mermaid but the eels…well they grossed me out more.  I agree that I don’t recall learning any real lessons from the Little Mermaid, but I’ve maybe seen it twice during my lifetime and neither of my kids have seen it yet.  In fact I think the only Disney movies we have seen were Cars and Cars 2 and I was pretty disappointed in the amount of “death” in cars 2, my son who is six gasped his way through much of that one….I mean one Car is executed all nice and slowly to get him to talk! NICE….  Now that I have rambled far off the Disney Princess topic I guess I will wrap this up lol

  3. What’s the problem? Ariel is just a flighty, impetuous teenager who turns her back on everyone she knows … and everything she is … to elope with someone she’s only just met. Probably for his great wealth and social status.

    Chillax, Mr. Cleaver.

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