On Monday, Disney's interpretation of The Little Mermaid turned 25 years old. Do you still have your whosits and whatsits galore? What about those thingamabobs? Here's a better question: how does Ariel stand up in the shadow of Frozen?
After Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, the story of Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder might not seem all that feminist by today's standards—which is interesting, considering feisty pro-equality princesses were Disney's early '90s bread and butter, though Ariel debuted in 1989. Remember Princess Jasmine's declaration in 1992's Aladdin?
But now that we have the Frozen sisters choosing each other over men, there's a different, higher standard for feminist princesses in the Disney universe. Still, I don't think Ariel's character is a weakling. She's a bright young woman, sick o' swimmin' ready to stand, yo.
At Today, Ree Hines writes that Ariel is a pushover because she gives up everything just for a chance to not only become a human, but to cuddle with Prince Eric. She even relinquishes her voice, which would clue Eric in on her personality. Terrible, yes. But as Eliana Dockterman pcounterpoints at Time, the idea of silence attracting men actually originates with Ursula, the sea witch, when she locks Ariel's alto into a shell.
See what Disney did there? Evil character says men don't like thoughtful, smart women, which actually means the opposite. A good guy does appreciate a woman who can hold her own.
Laura Stampler, also at Time, notes that The Little Mermaid's true damsel in distress is Prince Eric, whom Ariel saves not one but twice. He returns the favor by taking out that poor unfortunate soul, Ursula. But in that example, I'd say that was pretty pro-woman of Disney.
Alternately, Ariel waiting around for Prince Eric to kiss her and break Ursula's spell isn't so progressive because it relies on the princess mentality—a prince will save you!—that companies like GoldieBlox are always aiming to dismantle. Still, from ditching the ocean to growing new legs, Ariel's mostly trying to do it for herself even if her goals are short-sighted.
There's my opinion. But what say you Jezebel readers, how does Ariel hold up 25 years later?
ps. It must be noted that Ursula and her condescending theme song is probably one of the best Disney villains with a complimentary jam after The Lion King's Scar's "Be Prepared." *shivers*
Images from The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.