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.