Bad ideas from The Little Mermaid

John sez, "This video shows all the bad ideas Disney's The Little Mermaid is giving young girls about their options. The Second City is considering making it into a series."

Advice for Young Girls from The Little Mermaid (Thanks, John!)


  1. The next video will show the Little Mermaid crying her eyes out, and her father, King Triton of Atlantica , yelling at all the scum out there who are posting fake pics of his daughter without her clam shells.

  2. She lost me at at (dont) “run from a loving father”. Because, y’know, nothing shows fatherly love more than refusing to discuss things and wreck your daughters equivalent of stuff toy collection with magical thermonuclear weapons.

  3. Then I guess I better don’t mention that she gets the prince at the happy ending of the movie?

    1. well, married at age 16 to a guy who likes to eat the intelligent sea creatures that are supposedly her friends. It’s happy in a darkly comical way, but I don’t think that’s what they were going for — I think you just aren’t supposed to think it through.

      1. Some of the friends were meat-eaters, though. So it’s probably a Kevin-and-Kell type world.

  4. The original “Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen is sometimes considered proto-feminist because of the dark ending (the Little Mermaid never does find happiness as a human) which makes it more of a cautionary tale. Disney cut this ending.

    Studio Ghibli’s “Ponyo” is a much more entertaining remake of the Little Mermaid.

    And haters can diss all they want, but “Under the Sea” is a really fun song.

  5. I grew up watching The Little Mermaid and other Disney classics, and now I can’t function as an adult woman without a man by my side…

    …no, wait, I turned out just fine.

    1. I grew up watching Disney movies and grew up to attracted to dead/comatose/imprisoned women. I’ve discussed it at length with my forest friends, who are never any help. They just break into song.

  6. I’m not going to riff, yet again, on the specifics of why the content of Disney films are creepy.

    The thing that struck me, as a parent, was how in the eighties, what with home video players becoming the norm, that kids didn’t just see Disney movies at the theater, but had them in their homes and watched them over,and over and over again. And that, it seems to me, is where they get really pernicious. If a kid sees a movie once or twice, it is entertainment. If they watch it, as so many of my son’s generation have, repeatedly, it becomes a curriculum. All kinds of messages have time to sink in.

    Granted, it was only part of a larger cultural shift. Thanks to milk-carton abduction anxiety, increased consumerism, liability laws, laziness and ever-increasing narcissism, parents kept kids on very tight leashes, but then distracted themselves and their children from this fact by burying the kids in toys and videos and what all else. The amount of time my generation spent as children in retail environments as opposed to our kids! Well, I shudder.

    The other thing that bugged me, and FlaxenCurls’ post is a good example of this, was the assumption that the Disney crap was quality. The line “I grew up watching The Little Mermaid and other Disney classics…” is telling.

    Classics? Really? But it is assumed. I knew people, highly-educated people who should have known better. People who if the same plotlines were offered up by, say Hanna-Barbera or some sketchy comic book publisher, would have been repelled. But it came from Disney, so they weren’t particularly critical, they just accepted it.

    And why do so many people assume that Disney’s cheeseball formulaic films are so outstanding? Because, for decades and decades, Disney’s own publicity machine has told us that they are. They’ve sold it and sold it and sold it. And most of the public has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

    I’ve never been in awe of Disney animation, as so many people are. But then I’ve been an animator. I’m more aware of what else was out there, historically, and how the Disney spin pretty much erased the public awareness of other animation. And I’ve always been repelled by Disney himself and his politics, and how that translated into his studio. Some of the best and brightest artists bolted because the climate was so unpleasant. I don’t like the films. They either bore me or offend me or drown me in treacle.

    But I’m in awe of their ability to con people. They had an absolutely amazing publicity department. They did corporate spin back before it was common practice, and they did it well. That is a kind of genius, albeit utterly evil. Still, one has to respect the cleverness, the skill.

    Good PR is when you spin and people buy it, hell, people gobble it up and then spit it back and think that it was something that occurred to them all on their very own.


  7. Haha, I used the word “classic” in the “famous in the long-established” sense. I’m certainly not suggesting that Disney movies are pure infalliable rainbows and sunshine. I just think that blaming Disney movies for things that should be taught by parents is getting old.

    1. Also, to their credit, Disney can actually animate people (and creatures, and objects) talking reasonably well. Hanna-Barbera never could pull that off and instead just had mouths that flapped open and shut.

      1. On the contrary…HB COULD do that…they simply chose not to. It was expensive to animate that way and most of HB’s technique emphasized doing the work on the cheap…which allowed them to survive some pretty lean times.

        Take a look at the early Flintstones episodes, for example…notice how Fred’s appearance changes ‘off-model’ when different animators do him. A studio would never allow that now (and in fact HB snapped down on that fairly quickly, too). HB emphasized cheap TV animation, while Disney cut corners by recycling animation and rotoscoping…check youtube for examples of how Disney re-used animation samples (sometimes rather cleverly).

  8. To me, this is funny because, they don’t appear to be taking this whole “Disney teaches girls bad lessons” thing seriously… they are exaggerating it to the point of being funny.

    1. I dunno … I think that’s just the way you’re reading into it.

      What I think you’ll actually find is going on is that it’s a parody of Disney.

  9. I remember being 12 and trying to explain to 9 year old girls about the sexist propaganda in the film. They were somewhat annoyed with me.

  10. I found this funny, though I really don’t think anything is wrong with letting your kids watch disney movies. I watched the princess movies non-stop (I think I watched the little mermaid so much I ruined the tape) when I was a girl and the only real effect it had on me was making me want to be an animator… which isn’t so bad.

  11. Am I the only one who thinks every bad decision Ariel makes is pretty much lampshaded as a stupid sixteen year old being a stupid sixteen year old?

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  12. For the most part, Disney movies are “fairy tales”, which themselves were interpretations by the Walt-Disneys-of-their-day of stories that were almost universally more brutal.

    “Sleeping Beauty” is particularly bad, and the one I know in the most detail. Everyone but her dies, the prince has an apparent necrophilia, because he rapes this totally hawt unconscious chick, then leaves. She then gives birth to twins, one of whom sucks out the cursed splinter in an apparent desperate hunger, and she wakes up. The version I read (in the original French, dated 15-something) may have already been sanitised, because then the prince comes back (after a year away, mind) and says “O you had my babies? Kewl, let’s get married.” instead of the more realistic “Those aren’t my kids! She is such a slut she didn’t even fight me off!”
    tl;dr — Look up “Belle au Bois Dormant”

    Also, ever see a movie adaptation of a book that Hollywood execs ‘improved’ that was actually better? Didn’t think so.

    By giving “Little Mermaid” a happy ending, Disney completely subverted the lessons against self-sacrifice in the original story. In pursuit of the man, she sacrificed everything she had, only to lose him also. Even Andersen gave it a bittersweet ending; the story is just too miserable otherwise.

    Not only is the Japanese film better, I fell in love as a child with the Soyuzmultfilm (Russia) version titled Rusalochka — check youtube!

    Beauty turning the savage Beast into a prince is even worse I’d argue. Or Cinderella, the triumph of fashion? Or Pocahontas, the savage civilised? Or Mulan, the warrior whose thanks for success is shunned?

    Ya, Disney does good animation of fantasy people and anthropomorphic animals, but the storytelling is formulaic at best, misogynistic at worst.

  13. “And why do so many people assume that Disney’s cheeseball formulaic films are so outstanding?”

    Well, actually…judging by their sales numbers, for many years, they were NOT outstanding. Disney has risen and fallen more than once on their formulas. That said, I find it interesting how stuff like this always cherry-picks the ideas it wants from a Disney movie and ignores the stuff it doesn’t.

    So many of the messages in films like the Little Mermaid can be read different ways. Is the King an overly-protective widower OR is he an emotionally abusive and violent xenophobe?

    And for that matter, you seem to assume that Disney started operations in 1988. Because if you don’t understand that Disney had fifty years of prior art and fame to draw upon to gain leverage to their last 25 years of work, maybe that’s why you’re so confused about the use of the term ‘Classic’. The only animated films ever nominated for Best Picture (so far) have been Disney movies. While this only shows the Academy’s bias, I think this speaks as much about your biases as it does Disney’s formulaic approaches.

  14. Ariel defied an overly-controlling, racist patriarch to pursue her life’s ambition of becoming human, she didn’t give a crap about singing even though she was good at it. Can’t say much to defend earlier princesses, but The Little Mermaid was one of the more empowering ones.

    1. umm, he hated humans, who are a species not a ‘race,’ so at best you’d call him a…specist? And he disliked them because…you know…they ATE his kind, which I think is a perfectly sound reason for distrust. And I seriously disagree with the notion that Disney ’empowers’ anyone; their core themes revolve around the importance of self-interest over your family, allowing underage girls to dress overly provocatively, and seeking out dangerous individuals (the sea witch) in order to change your appearance to impress a man. The fact that it ends “happily ever after” is the truly pernicious ramification of all this, because it teaches young children that morally corrupt and dangerous behaviors have their rewards. As if the ends justify the means. Lastly, people truly underestimate the power of persuasion and suggestion that these messages perpetuate amoung the youth; those who say they’ve turned out “perfectly fine” after watching hour after hour of Disney crap don’t realize that sometimes the effect is more psychological rather than physically manifest. Disney movies can effect your morals and outlook, making you think they’re your own when in fact they’re manufactured and spoon-fed to you at an impressionably young age. After all, how many of you believe that it’s ok to rebel against your parents if they don’t cave in to your desires?

  15. Total aside, but why does Disney always use dead parents as a motivator of characters, even when it’s clearly pointless to telling the story?

    Why is Ariel’s mother dead again? Why is Aladdin have no parents, what about Jasimine having no mother? Belle’s mother is dead why? Snow white also? Jane in Tarzan? Pocahontis? I’m willing to admit some stories were driven by the loss of parents Lion King being a creative retelling of Hamlet. But why is Disney so parenticidal?

    1. All fairy tales are, it’s not Disney. Absent parents are either the catalyst for an adventure, or allow the character the freedom to go out into the world. It is one of the bases of the romantic hero, as well as the picaresque anti-hero. I don’t know exactly why folklore works that way…

      1. Apart from what Anon at #25 wrote, it makes storytelling easier. If Ariel had a mother, for example, the writers would have to deal with it. She could be either a more understanding figure – which could’ve allowed Ariel to resolve her issues in a less dramatic manner – or she could have to be liker her husband, which would’ve been redundant. In any case, she would’ve ate up valuable screen time.

        Same with Belle: The mother would either have to get captured by the Beast, to, otherwise it’d be the mother who would’ve implored the Beast or the townspeople, using her own agenda which would be different from that of Belle.

        If Aladdin had parents or a mother, he could not have been a „street rat“, because then he would be shirking his responsibilities as a child. His father was only introduced much later, when Aladdin was basically settled down and didn’t need that angle anymore but another one.

  16. Late to the party here, but I’m going through the backlog after recovering from a computer meltdown…

    I always got the impression from The Little Mermaid that selling her voice was a BAD decision on her part. It was a total Faustian bargain: She got what she wanted but was screwed out of benefiting from it. The happy ending doesn’t necessarily negate that; it happened despite what she did, not because of it.

    But what struck me just now was that the story could be a metaphor for transgenderism. Ariel is, as the actress says, uncomfortable in her own body, but perhaps it goes deeper than the common body image issues she implies. She seems to literally feel like she was born into the wrong species, and hoards illicit toys and artifacts of the species she feels she should be. Her father reacts to this notion with transphobic rage, and she runs away from home and seeks a dangerous back-alley transition. Ultimately, though, the man she loved but feared to come out to as transspecies accepts her, and seeing this acceptance inspires her father to follow suit, even providing her with a properly-performed transition.

    I might have to use The Little Mermaid as an example the next time I have to explain transgenderism to someone.

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