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

03/22/2012 By Shawn Burns

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…