My cousin and I used to be just a teeny bit obsessed with The Little Mermaid when we were kids. We rented it from the video shop just about every weekend, scripted our own play version of it – in which I was Ariel, she was Ursula, and my brother was Flotsam and Jetsam. We knew all the songs by heart and probably drove our parents crazy singing them all the time.
Hold on. This is all sounding very familiar. (Can anyone say Frozen?) Ahem.
The Little Mermaid still holds a very special place in my heart, and my daughters also see the magic in it. Poppet has, on occasion, lamented being born a “mortal and not a mermaid”. I’m pretty sure that Ariel had a lot to do with my desire for red hair, a desire that was cemented when I discovered The X-Files.
What lessons do I want my girls to take from this tale?
The first is quite obvious: listen to your father. If he forbids something, don’t do something stupid in a flash of temper. Give him time to mellow. Allow yourself time to cool down. Then, in a rational manner, present your case. You’ll (probably) wear him down eventually. Ariel could have saved a lot of trouble if she’d bypassed Ursula and worked harder on winding King Triton around her little finger.
(Dear reader, calm down. I’m not actually advocating that my girls manipulate their father to get their own way. Though that bit about everybody chillaxing – that I did mean.)
On a more serious note, there’s the matter of Ariel’s voice. She tries really hard to get Prince Eric to fall for her, but she has no voice. When Ursula shows up with the voice, Eric goes gaga. This isn’t about not speaking, because my girls are physically unable to stop talking. Trust me, we’ve tried.
I want them to know that their beliefs and opinions are part of what makes them so special, and they shouldn’t have to hide part of themselves to find a boyfriend. The world will tell them to play dumb, or to wear skimpy clothes, or to adopt another’s opinion, or to be someone they are not, all in order to catch a man.
But I want them to know that the right man won’t mute any of their qualities – the right man will help them blossom and grow and shine. I want them to know that who they are is enough even without a man.
(And also, there’s a whole host of fathers and uncles and grandfathers ready to break the kneecaps of any boy who tries to persuade them otherwise.)
What lessons do you get out of The Little Mermaid?