You’re about to hate me. I know this. But I have to write this article anyway, so I just wanted to say right off the bat that I am aware. I’m about to trash one of your beloved childhood favorites. How could you not hate me?
See, there are suddenly all these remakes in the works for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Everyone’s fussing about the casting and the storyline, and even Lindsay Lohan is throwing her name in the ring, hoping to be cast as Ariel.
But the one thing no one is asking is why are we remaking this horrific film?
Look, I grew up loving it just like you did, I’m sure. The catchy songs, the drama, the exquisite intrigue of a story about a mermaid. I even played Sebastian (poorly) in a dance recital at some point. I wasn’t angry at not being Ariel or having to muddle through a ballet number dressed as a goddamn lobster. That’s how committed to the film I was.
But I made the mistake of watching it again in my 20s, and holy shit, guys. The Little Mermaid is literally the worst.
Here are just a few of the many, many reasons why.
1. Scuttle is fake news
OK, Ariel, despite hating this story, I do quite like you. I think you’re basically a good person, if incredibly naïve. But you’re trusting the word of a seagull. A seagull. Dude has you brushing your hair with a goddamn fork and is clearly inventing words on the spot.
A snarfblatt? A dinglehopper? These names don’t even sound remotely believable! Girl, check your sources. Get a second opinion. Don’t believe everything some random beach bird tells you.
2. Ariel’s dad is a controlling jerk
Hey, King Triton, I know your daughter is only 16, but how about giving her a little freedom, choice and bodily autonomy, hmm? How about encouraging her love of other species instead of sneakily having her followed and then having a giant tantrum and destroying all of her treasured cultural artifacts?
I mean, Joan of Arc was just 18 when she led the French army to victory at Orleans. But Ariel, a seemingly intelligent young woman, can’t even swim around and learn about human beings? Oookay.
3. Her unibang never gets wet and floppy
This is the one thing I remember being annoyed about even as a kid. Why is Ariel’s hair always a uniform poof? I mean, we’ve all been underwater. We know what underwater hair looks like.
But even after she emerges onto land, her hair isn’t stringy and dripping halfway down her face. It’s just sort of there, protruding from her forehead. I don’t trust it.
More: Raising a Feminist Son in the Princess Culture
4. Ursula doesn’t get the love she deserves
Ursula is the best part of this movie. Her bodacious curves, her sassy songs, her bomb-ass organic plant-derived lipstick — everything is amazing. But, because this is a Disney film and Disney has a thing for older women being either dead or evil, she’s an evil witch.
But why? I mean, Ariel has it for Prince Eric so bad. And Ursula just gives her what she wants! She clearly lays out the terms of the deal, Ariel understands it and signs, and Ursula is the bad one? OK, yes, she collects souls, and that’s clearly a little… weird. But I don’t think Ursula needed to be demonized the way she was. She’s a boss babe, a powerful woman! Not all witches are evil, OK?
Speaking of Disney’s issues with older women…
5. Where is Ariel’s mom?
Do they ever discuss this? Granted, it’s been ages since I’ve seen the film, but I don’t remember it.
And why are the parents (specifically mothers, cough Bambi cough) always dead or missing? I’m not even sure if we ever find out why Mrs. Triton is MIA, but she deserves to at least have a tiny nod to her very existence, doesn’t she?
And now, for my biggest beef with The Little Mermaid:
6. Ariel voluntarily gives up her voice, modifies her physical self and abandons her family for a dude
I just… I can’t support this. We all make sacrifices for love, I get it. And Prince Eric is a certified babe, with bonus points for the adorable dog. But if my daughter was like, “Hey, so, Mom, I really like this guy and I’m planning on transforming the very essence of who I am, living on an entirely different plane of existence, never seeing you again, and also giving up my literal means of expressing myself to make it happen,” I would be like, “Heyyy, maybe don’t do that. Honey, trust me, no man is worth irreversibly changing who you are.”
It’s a really disturbing take on what it takes to “get a man” and what women are asked to sacrifice to do so. Did anyone ever consider that Eric could have become a merman? I mean, life is supposedly so much better under the sea! Could they have maybe worked out some sort of 50/50 arrangement? Why did Ariel have to give everything up?
In my version of the remake, we’d keep the upbeat songs, the bright cartoons and the colorful characters. But King Triton would recognize his daughter as a fully autonomous human being, able to make decisions and also bear the consequences of those choices.
Ursula would be a respected elder, and perhaps she’d ease up on the bitterness and the creepy soul-collecting when not reviled by the entire ocean and only having a couple of weird eels as buddies.
And, rather than automatically assuming that she needs to change the very essence of who she is to make a relationship work, Ariel would have tried to work out a fair compromise with Prince Eric — and if he wasn’t open to it, she’d move on, get over him and find herself a hot merman instead.