For those readers who follow In Brightest Day regularly, you know I’ve been on a Disney kick of late. I have so far looked at Belle’s Stockholm Syndrome and Simba’s mental breakdown after the death of Mufasa. Both posts reviewed strong, if not obvious, concepts surrounding the characters.
However, I’m going to admit something for the first time. Normally, I can figure out all the problems with a specific character, but this one character is so messed up that she seems to have a laundry list of problems. I don’t think I scratched the surface with her.
In short, The Little Mermaid’s Ariel is one messed-up mermaid.
Of all the Disney musicals, this one rubs me the wrong way. There are some serious problems with Ariel, and making her a role model to children seems just wrong. For starters, we are introduced to Ariel as she treasure-hunts through a sunken ship for such treasures as a smoking pipe and a fork. She then takes these treasures and adds them to her collection of human items.
The collection is so large that it fills a cave about the size of a two-story house to the roof. As Ariel swims around singing about becoming part of the human world, we see more and more items.
I know the scene is supposed to make me think that Ariel longs for the joys of being human, but to me I see a spoiled princess collecting trash and singing about how she wants to change species. Let me ask you this: would you consider someone collecting a house full of bird’s nests and longing to be a robin to be of sound mind? I wouldn’t. Ariel seems more of a hoarder then a sane, wide-eyed teenager just longing for her purpose.
But that’s not even remotely close to the biggest problem with Ariel. After she falls for Prince Eric, she trades her voice for legs in order to get the famed Prince of… Somewhereland. So here is this pretty sixteen-year-old teenager trying to get Prince Eric based on her looks and pretty face.
Now, I’m not going to get into how absolutely insulting that concept is to women. Someone else has done that, and probably better than me. I will say this, though: Ariel’s obsession with Eric is so deep that she’s willing to physically change herself into a human, get rid of her voice, and potentially lose her soul to a sea-witch for a shot at making Eric fall in love with her.
I find that horribly unhealthy, and far too big of a gamble. She is going to ruin her life for one man? That’s an awful message for children.
Those are the two main problems surrounding Ariel, but that’s not to say there aren’t other problems with Ariel. What about her missing mother? What about being the youngest princess in a sea of princesses?
Ariel is a mess, and if I was writing a thesis on theoretical psychology, I would totally cover her. Girl is a flipping goldmine.