If you’re worried about your kids getting the wrong idea about life from Disney movies, you’re not alone. But, as voice actress Jodie Benson told Fatherly back in 2019, that within the realm of childhood, there might be equal room for progressive feminism and magical fairy tales. The original Ariel actress called The Little Mermaid “rebellious and strong” and considers the story of Ariel to be a “stepping stone” toward more progressive stories. Whether or not parents agree with this or not, is totally up to them. But, if you’ve got a kid who is obsessed with Disney princesses anyway, it’s possible, that one thing doesn’t have to be the enemy of the other.
Along similar lines, a new must-watch video from noted video essayist, critic, and author Lindsay Ellis, makes numerous (and occasionally hilarious) points about why it’s very possible everyone needs to lighten up on The Little Mermaid a bit. Summarizing the nuanced ideas in this video would be doing it an injustice, so we have to just recommend strongly that you go ahead and watch it and make up your own mind. But, one of Ellis’ big points stuck out, and it’s something parents may want to consider when reassessing this movie.
As Ellis says in the video, the character who changes the most isn’t Ariel, but instead, her father. Here’s what she says about halfway through the video.
“The Little Mermaid, as a movie, isn’t Ariel’s story. It’s King Triton’s story. Ariel is the point-of-view character. She is the protagonist. But the character whose growth actually drives and defines the story is Triton’s.”
Whoa. Ellis isn’t arguing this is necessarily 100 percent good or bad, but she does point out that the “power struggle” between Ursula and Triton is one of the bigger plot points of the film, which tends to get overlooked in some of the more popular Little Mermaid conversations.
The fact that King Triton begins the movie as an overbearing and inflexible father, and nearly loses his daughter as a result is the hidden message of The Little Mermaid. From a certain point of view, this movie is about how helicopter parenting is awful, and it’s a surefire way to alienate your kids. If you want your kids to have a healthy life, encourage their weird interests. Be supportive. And if you fail, make sure you figure out how to apologize to your kid like a grown-up. If King Triton can do it, so can you.
There’s a lot more smart and funny stuff in the video. Watch it right here.