Gender Roles - Women
Gender Roles - Women: 3 Stars
Ariel may be admired for her singing voice, but she’s also a novice explorer and an amateur anthropologist. She braves dark and secluded waters to discover hidden treasures and researches the lives of the humans that live just above the surface of her world. Although, the Little Mermaid quickly transforms from an adventure story into a routine princess romance, Ariel is still a daring and engaging character. Before she falls in love with Eric, she braves an unexpected storm and turbulent waters to rescue him from drowning. Her bravery is often casually linked to her girlish infatuation with him, but doing so downplays her strength in the midst of a frightening and dangerous moment.
Character Development: 5 Stars
From the beginning of the film and straight through until the end, Ariel is adventuresome, curious, and brave. She’s fascinated with humans and with mysterious things like fire and dancing that don’t exist in her world. She is able to see beyond the commonplace perceptions of those around her - that humans are nothing more than fish-eaters and barbarians. She examines their abandoned trinkets as clues to how they live, and sees the heart in these unknown creatures. This simple curiosity saves her from becoming just another love-struck princess. It suggests that she doesn’t give up her voice simply because she’s smitten with some handsome stranger. She’s doing it to pursue the adventure of a lifetime.
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Men: 2 Stars
Prince Eric is somewhat laid-back and care-free for a prince. He spends his days sailing ships rather than hosting balls or slaying dragons. And somewhat surprisingly, he is as romantic about meeting the right girl and falling in love as Ariel is. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about him beyond these sparse details. He doesn’t have any family or friends to help shape his personality. He has no back story, no plans for his kingdom, and no real pressures to speak of. When all is said and done, he is little more than a pretty face for Ariel to fall in love with, and to rescue her from danger when the time comes.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 1 Star
Ariel is fairly sure of herself, and certainly bold enough to defy her father and come up with her own solution to her intense crush on Prince Eric. Although her foolish exchange with the Sea Witch is hardly liberating, it’s still noteworthy that Ariel has such a steadfast sense of self-assurance. She’s convinced that her father is wrong about humans, and she has the bravery to attempt to prove it.
As a mermaid, however, Ariel shows a lot of skin - and appears unnaturally thin in certain frames. These shots may be a small part of the film's overall message, but they are noticeable enough to create unrealistic expectations for young girls. There is also something unsettling about how easily Ariel agrees to transform her body for a chance at love. She leaves behind an enormous piece of her identity to pursue a romance with a virtual stranger, and barely questions how much she might miss her father and sisters, and everything she’s ever known.
Plot: 2 Stars
At its core, the Little Mermaid is a story about a young woman who trades in her voice for love. There may be a fair amount of bravery and resilience buried under all that red hair, but most of it is overshadowed by the superficial love story. Ariel’s love story is a bit more troubling than most, specifically because of everything she sacrifices for Eric, not just her body, but her very ability to speak. Our voices are our means of expression, our personalities, and our strength. Without them, we can be reduced to nothing but bodies and bright eyes - and presumably, this was enough for Eric. Ariel certainly has moments where she shines, but there isn’t much for young girls to emulate in a woman who surrenders so much of herself so easily.
Love: 1 Star
Ariel falls in love with Eric the moment she lays eyes on him, before they ever exchange words or caring glances. Likewise, Eric falls in love with Ariel after three days of dancing and flirtatious smiles. While the film does a fair job of creating warm moments between the characters, it isn’t enough to overcome the fact that their attraction is mostly physical. They don’t know enough about each to suggest otherwise. Since Ariel has given away her voice, she is forced to rely on her sweetness and charm to win the prince’s heart, and to simply look the other way when he and Grimsby offer her seafood and stuffed crab for dinner.
Family: 2 Stars
From the very beginning, Ariel has the insight and bravado to challenge her father’s ignorance on humankind, arguing that they aren’t all as vicious and savage as he believes. King Triton’s prejudices, however, run so deep that he chastises his daughter rather than praising her for courageously rescuing a human from drowning. The impasse between their ideologies is reminiscent of the doomed romances between Romeo and Juliet, or Pocahontas and John Smith. Ariel is thoughtful enough to see past the fear and anger around her and to look for some good in the foreign species that her father despises. This reveals a boldness and strength of character that is difficult to come by, but is unfortunately eclipsed by the sugary love story with Prince Eric. The only downfall of this beautiful set-up is that the movie never explores the extent of this conflict between the humans and the mermaids - or Ariel’s surprising advocacy for understanding between the two worlds.
Ariel is a young mermaid with a captivating voice and a fascination with humans and life on land. But Ariel’s curiosity turns into something much stronger when she rescues a human, Prince Eric, from a shipwreck and falls in love with him. Ariel strikes a deal with Ursula the Sea Witch, who transforms her into a human in exchange for her lovely voice. Ariel is given three days to make Prince Eric fall in love with her, but without her voice, she may need some help from her friends, Flounder, Scuttle and Sebastian. She must also beware of Ursula, who plans to use Ariel to take over the entire ocean.
Kelly is a labor law