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Published on November 27th, 2014 | by Simon Maracara


In defense of one Little Mermaid (not that she actually needs any)

Last week was the 25th anniversary of one of the most popular animated films of all times (OF ALL TIMES): “The Little Mermaid” was released on November 17, 1989 becoming an instant classic for children and grownups all over the world. So, journalists and compulsive bloggers across the web got their keyboards out to celebrate and commemorate this treasured piece of storytelling from the dreams factory that is Disney.

And true to the phrase, “parody is the sincerest form of flattery”, the Internet exploded (or at least my Facebook feed did) with the release of the Honest Trailer from Screen Junkies dedicated to Ariel and her sorta quest for love. The video is actually pretty funny, pointing out the clichés and nonsenses in the story known by almost everyone. But also ends up depicting the story as “weird and sexist” by highlighting the half-nakedness of the teenage princess, who’s also called “a clueless mute brat” and a “dumb mermaid,” who apparently can only care about how pretty she looks.

It also has one or two political and racial comments about the film. But let me hook you up to whole thing before continuing.

Yes. I laughed too, and most of its points are fairly accurate but I believe it misses the bigger picture in some of them. In days when the word Feminism has become such a hot topic, I’m always the first one to raise the hand when the question about who believes in equality and female power arises. Buffy, Lara Croft, Elle Woods and Britney Spears are among my personal heroes and having grown up in the 90’s, I must very much add Ariel to my list.

Ariel may not be the brightest one in the bunch but she definitely is a determined young woman who is also kind, brave and out spoken. Her main desire is not a man, that’s merely a plot device, but the need to not settle with her lot. She says it herself, she wants freaking more! There’s a full song about it! No matter how many castles and royal privileges she has, she wants more out of life (and out of the sea), and that’s represented not only in a pair of legs but in the form on knowledge.


She is always the first in line to try new things, whether is a magical bodily transformation or the saddles of a horse and carriage. She is also not one to sit and wait while an Evil Witch deceives the prince into a fraud marriage. And most importantly, Ariel actively seeks information about a world that fascinates her, its items, words and ideas – yes, a seagull may not be the wisest of teachers but it’s the only one available to her given the (safety) restrictions her father has (very rationally) set upon her.

Aren’t all of these positive traits? I clearly wouldn’t shy from showing the movie to my young nieces. I can’t see anything wrong about a girl who knows what she wants and goes after it, and I would love for my nieces to learn that.

ericOf course I would’ve liked her to defeat Ursula herself, and to not get married to a guy she just met (no matter how hot the white version of Aladdin is) but one has to take two time settings into consideration: the first one being the 18th century-ish time frame of the movie, when life expectancy was definitely shorter and people were expected to wed (and breed) and at younger age (Hell! Even my dad got married at 19, and that was only last century). And the second one, the late 80’s/early 90’s when the movie was produced and released, at a time when very few female leads in the big screen had the determination and bravery that Ariel showed.

I can only wait for Sofia Coppola’s take on this childhood favorite and for Ariel, or whatever name they give her, to be more careful and responsible in her journey. But I also want her to be brave, feisty and sexy in all her half-nakedness glory (the typical mermaid fashion), while swimming with fish, dolphins and whales. If she’s of age it wouldn’t harm the reportedly Coppola’s plans to explore darker themes, akin to the original Hans Christian Andersen tale.

If they cast Deborah Ann Woll would be awesome. But please keep her as a redhead. Thanks.

Deborah Ann Woll

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About the Author

Venezuelan journalist living in Dublin. A mess who's driven to do something greater. A peniless sitar player. Whedonist.

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