I’m going to tell you a story you already know. (Tell me when you recognize it.)
Leira is a princess of a magical kingdom on Earth–a beautiful, shimmering land of lush forests and colorful meadows near a picturesque mountain range.
The subjects of Leira’s kingdom include other people, like herself, as well as many amazing, brilliant woodland creatures who are full members of her society. The woodland creatures even contribute to its art and culture. They are painters, musicians, writers.
Unfortunately, Leira’s kingdom is at risk. A race of space aliens have begun using their advanced technology to harvest her subjects for food: Every so often, they hover in the sky above and use electromagnetic beams to capture the woodland creatures, which they devour. Woodland creatures who ascend the mountain seem to be at the greatest risk: the aliens tend to harvest their prey at higher altitudes.
The space aliens have not yet captured any of Leira’s fellow human beings, but her parents, the king and queen, fear it is only a matter of time. They decree that everyone must stay away from the mountains.
But Leira cannot resist those mountains. Sometimes, debris from the space aliens may be found there. She loves their debris. It gleams and has strange, hard edges, unlike anything she’s ever seen. Leira marvels at the remnants of their technology and wonders how each item is used. She becomes obsessed with collecting more of it, and begins putting herself at risk by ascending to higher and higher altitudes to do so.
With time, poor Leira begins descending into a Stockholm-syndrome-esque form of madness, in which she feels empathy with these vicious aliens who love to devour her kingdom’s citizens. Leira wants to leap on a cloud, travel through the stars, and see these fascinating alien creatures up close. What are they like? How do they spend their time? She sneaks away recklessly to the mountains with binoculars and telescopes, hoping to glimpse them without being seen.
One day, her madness reaches new heights: She would give anything to BE one of the aliens. Though it seems practically suicidal, she longs to abandon her position as the beautiful princess Leira and ascend to become a superior being. She would give up her identity and become one of them.
It’s a bad situation.
…And that is the whole premise of The Little Mermaid. Ariel wants to be “part of that world” that would literally gobble hers up. It would be interesting to see a sci-fi film version of the story. Kind of fun but strange to think about, right?
Expect for one thing, mermaids probably ate fish themselves and Disney just didn’t want to say it. Like how they had many fish in the Under the Sea song that actually would eat each other in real life. You know I actually used to enjoy reading your blog but now I feel that maybe you aren’t enlightened and trying to help empower girls but you want to tear down there dreams and make believe play.
That’s a good point re: the fish. 🙂 I wonder where the sharks from Nemo are?
Re: your concerns on content, this post is just a fun exercise of what The Little Mermaid would look like from a different, sci-fi-styled vantage point. To be clear, I do NOT advise having a conversation along these lines with little kids… Oy!
Good to know, it took me forever to find this post again, not sure why. I just finished reading Mermaid which is a retelling of the original tale and it definitely made a point of telling how the mermaids would pluck fish swimming by to eat.
I always say to my daughter how I think it’s so sad that Ariel had to give up her mermaid fin and mermaid life when she became a princess (and I do!), so I guess I am a dream crusher myself! 😉
It was my biggest problem with ‘The Little Mermaid’ — how could Ariel leave her family and her world like that for a guy? I mean, Prince Eric wasn’t really all that great and the people on land weren’t terribly nice to her.
The original Hans Christian Andersen take is much more morbid and I think is meant to be more of a parable to ‘Don’t wish for things that are so far out of your reach’…which was probably a popular mantra in Andersen’s time. After all, the Mermaid in that story is denied the love of the Prince and turns into sea foam, always floating atop the waves…never able to rejoin her family below the surface or join those on land. It’s a popular story in Fairy Tales, after all (same thing with ‘Swan Lake’).
Disney gave it a ‘happy ending’ but Ariel did seem to sell herself short. I haven’t seen the sequels, but I think in one of them her young daughter becomes a mermaid to learn about her mother’s people.
I think that ‘The Little Mermaid’ was definitely a turning point in Disney animated movies in that for a while before it came out, their movies weren’t doing very well. The subject matter and songs were rather dull and they didn’t have the magic that the previous movies (from a completely different era) had. Along comes ‘The Little Mermaid’ which has a new animation style (borrowed, partially, from Japanese Anime…look at Ariel’s gigantic eyes) and real Broadway-like, catchy songs and a plot that people know. It’s still a ‘Princess Story’ like the ones that came out in the 1950’s. At least with ‘Beauty and the Beast’, we see Belle saving the Prince/Beast…which is also in the story, granted. But she doesn’t ever really back down from him. Jasmine also, while a Princess, is pretty firm in not marrying just any guy. It’s a start at creating stronger ‘Princesses’ (which went backwards in ‘Pocohontas’ but that movie has a ton of issues) which sort of peaked with ‘Mulan’, if you ask me.
But Ariel is totally the original ‘Princess’ stereotype though and I can see how they could use the movie as ‘giving a voice to the next generation’. It -did- give a voice in that it redefined the Disney movie style and presentation (even though there were still some flops in there). I think they may have also taken that quote from the ‘In Memoriam’ that was at the end of ‘Beauty and the Beast’:
To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991.
I at least, saw the ‘Little Mermaid’ quote as the fact that it heralded in a new generation of Disney animators and storytellers, but I’m a big Disney Animation geek like that :).
How did Pocahontas go backwards as far as princesses go? She did not fit the mold of the stereotypical helpless female, and like Jasmine, she picked her own man over her father’s choice.
Interesting point, though I don’t think the humans would have eaten Ariel herself. The talking fish with human intelligence do complicate the story.