::Grimace:: Well, I had set a goal to write at least one post per month, and kept to my goal for an entire year! Then I was on travel for half a month, which meant I missed March…and after missing one, I had less motivation to maintain my monthly goal…And now it’s July!! :-O I actually began writing this piece a year ago, just rediscovered it and wiped off the dust. It’s a light-hearted take on my favorite childhood movie, but fun none-the-less. 🙂
Lessons from The Little Mermaid, Part One
A couple Saturdays ago (wow time flies…), Junwen and I drove up to Thousand Oaks to watch the Broadway musical, “The Little Mermaid”, put on by the Cabrillo Music Theatre. Let me just say it was AH-AH-AHH-MAZING!!! (See what I did there, TLM fans?) The costumes, props, vocals, everything was spectacular! I may be a BIT biased, because The Little Mermaid was is my favorite movie growing up of all time. Aside from the fact that it’s about a mermaid (I always loved the water!), I think I loved it because of who Ariel is…She’s adventurous, brave, curious, loves to explore, and isn’t satisfied with life as she knows it. She’s friendly, quirky, bubbly, and determined. She cared less about her shells and hair-do, and more about exploring new places and finding new and exciting things. And like every good geek, she collects! ;-P
Why the Little Mermaid is Kick-A$$
Ariel gets a bad rap—perhaps the worst out of all the Disney princesses—because her story involves falling in love with Prince Eric at first sight…essentially because he’s cute and plays an instrument. (Although, c’mon, what teenage girl hasn’t experienced this? :P) In her defense, Ariel was in love with the “human world”, and Eric was the first human man she encountered up close. Even if we look to the original Hans Christian Anderson version, the Little Mermaid was more interested in obtaining a soul than in finding a boyfriend. In that story, gaining a soul could be achieved by marrying a human (because of the whole “becoming one flesh” thing).
Although there is no mention of souls in Disney’s adaptation (except for Ursula’s epic song), Ariel is clearly mesmerized by the human world. As with almost all Disney princesses, she has a song early in the movie that outlines her goals and desires (“Part of that World”, which is pre-Eric). The song is all about how “flipping your fins sure don’t get you far—legs are required for jumping, dancing, strolling along down the [what’s that word again?] street…Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun wanderin’ free, wish I could be part of that world.” Let’s keep reviewing those lyrics…
“What would I give if I could live out of these waters? What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand? Betcha on land they understand, bet they don’t reprimand their daughters! Bright young women…sick of swimmin’…ready to stand! And ready to know what the people know! Ask ’em my questions and get some answers: What’s a fire, and why does it, what’s the word…burn?! When’s it my turn? Wouldn’t I love…love to explore that shore up above? Out of the sea…wish I could be…part of that world!”
And as with most Disney princesses, her prince is more of a boon thrown in resulting from her determined actions to achieve her goal. Don’t know what I’m talking about? For example, Mulan sings about finding herself, then goes off to war, saves China, and meets Shang along the way. Pocahantas sings about whether she should choose the wide and easy path or the adventurous and dangerous one. After choosing the adventurous river rapids, she meets John Smith. Belle sings about wanting adventure in that great wide somewhere, after which she finds herself in the Beast’s castle. The movies in which the princesses aren’t the main character don’t always include a song, but the intent is still apparent…Jasmine doesn’t want to have an arranged marriage, so she runs away…and meets Aladdin. You get the picture.
Ariel’s iconic song, “Part of that World” (my favorite from the movie), is all about how she wishes she could be part of the human world. She’s satisfying her curiosity by following a ship when she first sees Eric and frickin’ saves his life. I mean, bash her for love-at-first-sight all you want, but she’s certainly not the helpless damsel in distress. She then defends her actions when her
racist speciesist (?) father tells her she should have left him to die. And although Eric is a hunky musician, he also has a loving and sacrificial heart. When his ship is on fire and sinking, he goes back into danger to save his trapped pooch. Rescuing his dog is actually the reason he ends up unconscious in the water in need of rescue.
Next, Ariel trades her voice for legs in a shady deal with the Sea Witch, all for a chance at love and a life as a human. (I didn’t realize until I was older that had Ariel been successful in kissing Eric, she never would have gotten her voice back…The contract simply stated that she would remain human permanently. The voice was payment, so she would have remained forever mute had the battle not ensued and Ursula’s sea shell destroyed.) Ariel then battles through three days of learning how to walk and communicate in a new land while trying to win her prince’s heart so that she can keep those legs. Woof.
One of my favorite aspects, however, is actually part of Eric’s story. His is analogous to anyone who has ever formed a crush on an acquaintance or celebrity, and has built an imaginary perfect soulmate around this person. You know what I’m talking about. When I was a kid, I crushed on guys I didn’t even really know…it was enough to imagine that being in a relationship would be pure bliss! This is the pit Eric has fallen into when he becomes infatuated with “that Voice”. He knows she’s the one, even though he doesn’t know anything about her. His infatuation ALMOST blinds him to Ariel, the fun-loving girl right in front of him that doesn’t quite measure up in comparison.
He can’t help himself, though, and ends up falling for this quirky girl who fills his life with joy and laughter. The moment of realization occurs in the movie when Eric’s friend (and caretaker?), Grimsby, tells him,
“Eric, if I may say, far better than any dream girl is one of flesh and blood. One warm, and caring, and right before your eyes.”
It’s at this moment that Eric flings his flute into the sea and literally turns his back to it in order to find Ariel. The Broadway musical captures his struggle and internal victory really well in a quartet that Eric sings with Ariel, Triton, and Sebastian. (Someone’s video of the broadway, or check out the recorded version.) I just get shivers every time when he sings,
“How I wish that girl could have been this one! …And at the ball, what will occur? Maybe I’ll find that Voice…but I’ll lose her….”
It’s a spectacular song, I really can’t listen to it too often. 🙂
The wonderful thing is that only when Eric gives up on his dream girl does he finally realize that Ariel *is* his dream girl. Isn’t that so true? Once we let go of our impossible expectations (which are not necessarily what we really want or which are good for us), our hands are open to accept the true gifts that are right in front of us.
How about you? Did you ever fall into the trap Eric found himself? Perhaps not in the realm of relationships, but in another application?
Next: Lessons from The Little Mermaid, Part Two: Ariel’s Interracial Relationship
For another Ariel-Positive post, see NonRefundableNonsense! a fun article that I discovered while searching for images to populate this post. ^_^
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