Film Corner: Ariel Redux

Ariel is absolutely the most important Disney Princess to me, and absolutely no one needs her to be white in order to identify with her story. The live-action casting decision is excellent. The Disney Princess decision you ought to be mad about is giving Belle to an actress who couldn't sing Belle's range.

IF* white Danes feel they are lacking in representation, I am reliably informed by 90% of cis people that you can just make your own movie if you don't feel like mainstream media has you covered. (*"IF", I said.)

Anyway, none of the Disney princesses NEED to be white. Their stories don't hinge on them being white in the same way that being, for example, Black is a literal plot point for Tiana. (It's why they try to refuse to sell her the building for her restaurant!!) We've spent so long using whiteness as a default for any character who didn't *need* to be non-white and that should be changed. This is a good step.

We've reached the point of the discussion where people who don't remember the movie tell me that TLM is antifeminist so: ARIEL IS A SCIENTIST WHO FLEES AN ABUSIVE FAMILY TO LIVE OUT HER DREAMS. SHE GIVES UP THE THING HER FATHER VALUED HER FOR IN ORDER TO BE HER OWN PERSON. And, yes, a boy is also there. Women don't become antifeminist for liking boys, sorry. Eric is an ally.

P.S. The weird insistence that life without a voice is a joyless nightmare is ableist as fuck. Stop it, and go learn sign language. It's a good thing to know, period.‏

The really interesting thing to me about The Little Mermaid discourse is that no one thinks it's weird for Cinderella and Rapunzel to leave their abusive mothers. Yet people completely forget Triton is abusive. I think it's a combination of misogyny and toxic masculinity: a father who violently "protects" his daughter's sexuality--even to the point of terrifying her and destroying her possessions--is normalized and even lionized in our culture.

I think, too, there's the problem that most of us want to be mermaids so we think Ariel left paradise. If she were a human leaving a human family to be a mermaid and wed a merman/maid, we'd be fully supportive. There's also a tremendous amount of ableism: that giving up a voice to be free is worse than death. Yet very few people think Rapunzel trading her hair and magic to be free was a bad trade. FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT.

I grew up in a household where my dad was the scary angry one when punishments were being handed out. I completely understood why Ariel was leaving. Eric isn't incidental, of course, but he's an anchor to hold onto: she wants to be human and he's a safe human who can help. There's also some bioessentialism: Cinderella and Rapunzel are being abused by non-bio-parents**. Triton, the redeemable abusive parent, is biologically related to Ariel. There's a strong implication that this is WHY he's "redeemable" at the end. We value bio parents most. (**I hesitate to call Gothel a parent because she's Rapunzel's kidnapper and captor, but for purposes of this discussion I believe it's worth analogizing to Triton.)

It's also worth noting that URSULA is the one that places and keeps the focus on Eric, because she thinks he's an Impossible Goal that Ariel won't be able to attain. I don't agree that Ariel left the sea "for a man", but even if she did that would really just make her...a mermaid Cinderella. The deal for her voice isn't fair. It's not *supposed* to be fair. Ursula is a villain, even though people seem to forget that, too. She's trying to set Ariel up to lose a bet. Ariel agrees because the alternative is an abusive situation she can't remain in. She can't run. Triton rules all the seas. Her only escape is land--and Ursula knows that. She's the devil, offering a bargain that seems too good to be true and which she intends to be impossible to win.

The reading of TLM where Ariel is a silly girl who gives up her voice on a whim for a boy is one that erases Triton's abuse, Ursula's scheming, and Ariel's agency as she attempts to wrest her freedom from her father and from his political enemies (Ursula).

@JanetteKirchner. My dad never destroyed my stuff (until I moved out) but the rage and the shouting *cringes* If memory serves, Triton was also patronizing "oh, her new found interest will pass in a week because teen girl" Which was used on me a lot.

Yeah, the bit where Triton is *thrilled* Ariel is in love until he realizes it's a human was VERY FAMILIAR to me as a queer girl being raised in a Christian cult who was only allowed to date male members of same. Yes, it would've been more subversive if Eric were Erin, and the queer subtext of their forbidden love had been textual. Sure. I'd LOVE to see that in the reboot. But the idea that girls dating boys is inherently not queer feels kinda bi-erasurey. And there's a whole conversation to be had about how everyone assumes a m/f pairing is straight, but I'm tired.

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