My three year old has taken to the magic of Disney in recent months, I shudder to think how many times I have sat through the iconic ‘The little mermaid.’ I genuinely enjoy sharing the stories that I grew up with, if not the repetition, snuggled on the couch together. What I didn’t anticipate was how fascinating her perception of the film would be.
I mean, the ongoing debate on how the Disney princess empire negatively impacts children isn’t an old concept. But the response I hear most often is that its nonsense and the films are fine. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I can’t help but think that Disney missed a huge opportunity with the film which wouldn’t have really changed the plot.
I remember my daughter looking up at me, a frown on her face, saying;
“But why, mummy? Why does Ariel want legs when she has a fishy tail?”
Because, to her, the very idea is absurd! Having a ‘fishy tail’ and living in a castle under the sea is the coolest thing ever! Why would Ariel want to give that up to go shack up with some guy on the mainland? It was a challenging one to answer, I could see that whatever answer I gave would not be logical for her.
Most nights in the bath she is splashing her imaginary ‘fishy tail’ (usually splattering my bathroom in the process) in the bath, singing like a banshee. She has mermaid dress-ups, mermaid dolls and mermaid pyjamas! It will change, there will be a new interest sooner rather than later, but such is the impact this film has had on her little world.
Why, oh why, could Eric not have sprouted a ‘fishy tail’ at the end so they could ‘happily ever after’ under the sea? Would it have been that mind blowing in 1989?? Not that I’d change it now. Sanitising our pop culture history isn’t my thing. This doesn’t freak me out as a parent of an impressionable young girl, I am seeing this as a drop in the ocean on the many things that will shape her values and belief system. The vast body of that water rests with me and my partner, role modelling to her in everyday life.
What I have learned, is the capacity to reimagine things through the lens of a parent, trying to light a path ahead every day.