With Apologies to Ariel
April 27th, 2013
This is hard for me to admit…so I’m just going to come out and say it. I’m sorry that I became such a jaded grownup and forgot how special you once were to me. Please forgive me.
After being the target of a tireless plead campaign, I finally broke down and bought “The Little Mermaid” for Miss Mouse. We watched it tonight for the first time…
…and I loved it.
I hadn’t seen that particular Disney classic in many years. As I grew up and became a liberated feminist woman, I got snooty about that movie (long before I got on my Disney Princess Parenting Soapbox). It’s just so cliched. Dewey-eyed girl sacrifices her voice (her voice, people!) to nab a man she doesn’t even know and who’s only interested in her because she’s foxy and has great pipes. Egad.
But when The Little Mermaid came out in theaters, I had just turned eight years old, and I didn’t see it that way. I saw a beautiful exotic creature and a breathtaking romance. Not to mention awesome music. I wanted nothing more than to be a mermaid and since I was swimming a lot at that time in my life, there were endless mermaid games.
In particular, I vividly remember reenacting with my friends the moment when Ariel concludes one of her songs by pushing herself up onto a rock while the waves crash behind her. We relived that moment hundreds of times, convinced in our hearts that maybe — just maybe — this was the time when we’d become mermaids ourselves.
I liked other Disney movies (I can remember getting trapped by one of those completely helpless, nearly-hysterical laughing fits during Aladdin when we saw it in the theater), but Ariel was The One for me in terms of movie heroines.
Even though it had probably been at least ten years since I watched The Little Mermaid, I still remembered the words to all the songs and irritated my family by singing along. How can you not chime in on “Under the Sea”?
Who knew that “liberated” could end up being so similar to “cynical”?
Not surprisingly, Miss Mouse was captivated. And though the mother in me still doesn’t think Ariel makes a particularly good role model and will continue to search out more empowered portrayals of women for my daughter to emulate, I’m not going to try to squash her joy. I (finally) remember what it felt like to be at the age where princesses were all about the magic and not the misogyny.