Ariel Gets a Bad Rap

In the last week, three of my Facebook friends have posted this photo:

Princesses are bad role models

I’m not going to argue with Cinderella or Snow White. The only thing I have to say about Sleeping Beauty is that she was alive, she was just asleep, so I’d change the word alive to awake.

However, I take issue with Ariel’s description:

It’s okay to abandon your family, drastically change your body, and give up your strongest talent in order to get your man. Once he sees your pretty face, only a witch’s spell could drag his eyes away from you.

Ariel is obsessed with humans far before she sees Eric. It’s no different than a farm girl who longs for the big city. Or, if you want to get even more accurate, no different than a transgendered youth knowing he’s really a she. Ariel has always felt like a human trapped in a mermaid’s body.

I remember seeing this movie hundreds of times on video cassette. From the first watch, I thought how cool it was that Ariel, the princess, rescues Eric, the prince.

I also remember my reaction to Ursula’s song, Poor Unfortunate Souls, “The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber… Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word…” I knew from the get-go that that wasn’t right. Eric was always attracted to Ariel’s voice. Eric almost kisses Ariel because of Sebastian’s song, not just her beauty. Then, he realizes Ariel is his true love when he hears her voice coming from her. I’ve always thought that Ariel proved the reverse of what Ursula sang – men don’t just “dote and swoon and fawn for a lady who’s withdrawn.”

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized, after Eric saves Ariel from Ursula, Ariel saves Eric’s life again. Princess 2, Prince 1.

Oh sure, Ariel wears a shell bra and is skinny as a seahorse. But the bra is a cultural thing, and how big would you be if all you ate was seaweed?

Moving on to Belle:

Appearances don’t matter; what counts is what’s in your heart. Unless you’re the girl.

The title of the movie is BEAUTY and the Beast. They couldn’t very well make Belle ugly, could they? Beyond that, Belle isn’t your classic movie princess beauty – she has dark hair and dark eyes, as opposed to your typical blonde haired, blue-eyed beauties. The movie goes to great pains to point out that Belle’s beauty isn’t the issue, because she’s smart, she doesn’t fit in. If you’re beautiful, you don’t have to be smart, right? Wrong! Belle’s beauty doesn’t matter; no one understands her because she reads. The Beast understands her. The Beast falls in love with her. She falls in love with the Beast. Girls, you don’t have to settle for the handsome, stupid guy. You can find a guy who really appreciates you.

Moving on to Jasmine:

As a woman, your political worth is reduced to your marriageability.

That’s the point. Jasmine is not a prize to be won. Historically, princesses were just really expensive trophies. Jasmine is determined not to be a trophy. In the end, Jasmine (who also helps save Aladdin) proves to her father that she shouldn’t be married off to the nearest prince, but should marry because she’s in love. Now, if you want to take issue with the fact that she’s in love with a guy who’s not who he said he was, go ahead. That’s a far more important message:

As a woman, you can ignore a man’s lies if he’s also plucky and good looking.

You can go ahead and cap on the other princesses, but leave Ariel, and to a lesser extent, Belle, alone!


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