Feminism and “The Little Mermaid”

Today in my CentreTerm class on movies and politics, we watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid and discussed whether or not contemporary feminists would approve of Ariel as an example and role model for America’s young girls.

Many students argued that feminists would approve because Ariel is an ambitious and hard-working person who aspires to something more than her current station in life. She sets goals for herself and is willing to work and take risks in order to achieve those goals.

Other students argued instead that feminists would not approve because Ariel’s primary goal is move from one patriarchal system (her father’s under-water monarchy) to another (married to a prince in an above-water monarchy). In both systems she is an accessory to the important men in her world, rather than an agent in her own right. It was also argued that, ultimately, it’s the men who “save” Ariel instead of her saving herself. Eric is the one who kills Ursula and King Triton is the one who grants permission for Ariel to become human and marry Prince Eric. Ariel is helpless in both of these key situations in the story.

Tomorrow we’re watching Beauty and the Beast to analyze how men are portrayed in the contemporary American media.

2 responses to “Feminism and “The Little Mermaid”

  1. I might argue that Ariel sunk her own boat by the choices she made. In her ambition and determination, she broke laws and hurt relationships in a way that caused her to be more dependent on the men in her life. There are legal and less costly paths to take to achieve her goals.

    Can’t wait to hear the scoop on Gaston!

  2. I think Ariel wasn’t model of perfect feminism, she’s just angsty teen who fell in love with stud. I preferred The Little Mermaid’s original story. That was I called feminist story though I disliked the way she sacrificed herself for her stupid prince. I hoped she would kill him. That would be lot of interesting.

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