*** SPOILER ALERT!!! This post blows the ending to a film I deplore. ***
Welcome to the continuation of Musing #27: On the Unrivaled Power of Film (Teach Your Children Well, Part I).
I’m about to figuratively filet the fish (which I would NEVER do literally, because I find seafood to be repugnant).
Will Never Tire of This Image
I embodied the target audience at the time.
I went to see it with my entire family…which then still consisted of “only” four siblings, the youngest of whom was three. My entire family was blown away by the film, as was most of the rest of the world.
But me? I was ENRAGED! And I remain enraged to this day.
Yes, the animation is stunning. Yes, the music is gorgeous. Yes, the seashell-boob-bedecked Ariel is hot. And yes, the supporting characters are funny.
Me, as “Chef Louis[a]” in a 1991 Children’s Theater Production
(Complete with Disproportionate Pot)
But the heroine is a spoiled, entitled, self-important, ignorant fucking FAUST WITH FINS!!!
Yes, I both knew the legend of Faust (from the Charles Gounod opera) and drew the Ariel parallel at 10. And though I knew of Hans Christian Andersen (from the Danny Kaye film) as I fumed my way through that November 1989 screening, I did not yet know that Andersen had created the tale.
(Another perspective on that same work of art…)
Legit BADASS, animators!
Thus, I did not yet know that Andersen’s 1837 short story ends much differently.
Again, the film’s target audience.
Of course, being a lifelong purist when it comes to cinematic adaptation of literature, knowing the real ending would only have enraged me even more when I saw what Disney had wrought…on two further levels.
That’s because said Disney-shirked real ending – to which I can now attest, having read the short story in question – is equally distasteful in an entirely different realm as is the film to my humanistic sensibilities!
So, according to the House of Mouse, the fishy leading lady – who fancies herself superior to her sisters, courtesy of Daddy’s unabashed favoritism – sells her soul to the Devil over a dude (she doesn’t know), but ultimately sails off into the sunset with human legs, gorgeous voice and prince intact…because over-indulgent Daddy decides arbitrarily that she DESERVES it (?!) and comes to the rescue in a way that only he can.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, DISNEY?!
THAT’s the lesson you opted to preach to legions of girls in aeternum?!
It gets worse.
According to Hans Christian Andersen, said fishy leading lady takes on the additional Devil-prescribed burden that walking on her new feet is equivalent to walking on shards of glass. Bitch was literally intended to bleed for her (shameful) choice. Because that’s what she truly deserves. She was further intended to DIE in a “flotsam” (Tee-hee!) of sea foam for that same (shameful) choice in the event the dude (she doesn’t know) fails to kiss her in time…which, of course, he fails to do.
Oh, but it gets worse…at least for those of us who are not Christians.
Here again, I’m going to cut-and-paste the requisite information directly from Wikipedia, taking no responsibility for phrasing:
The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is mesmerised by her beauty and grace even though she is mute. Most of all he likes to see her dance, and she dances for him despite her suffering excruciating pain. When the prince’s father orders his son to marry the neighboring king’s daughter, the prince tells the Little Mermaid he will not because he does not love the princess. He goes on to say he can only love the young woman from the temple, who he believes rescued him. It turns out that the princess is the temple girl, who had been sent to the temple to be educated. The prince loves her, and the wedding is announced.
The prince and princess marry, and the Little Mermaid’s heart breaks. She thinks of all that she has given up and of all the pain she has suffered. She despairs, thinking of the death that awaits her, but before dawn, her sisters bring her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their long hair. If the Little Mermaid slays the prince with the knife and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again, all her suffering will end, and she will live out her full life.
However the Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride, and she throws herself into the sea as dawn breaks. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the sun; she has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters tell her she has become like them because she strove with all her heart to obtain an immortal soul. She will earn her own soul by doing good deeds and she will eventually rise up into the kingdom of God.
I won’t go into my secular issues with the concept of absolution, because I don’t want to offend anyone…but here is further cutting-and-pasting from Wikipedia on that point:
Andersen originally ended the tale with the mermaid dissolving, but then later added the “daughters of air” coda, stating that it was his original intention and, in fact, the working title of the story. The daughters of air say they can earn souls simply by doing three hundred years’ worth of good deeds, but Andersen later revised it to state that all this depends upon whether children are good or bad. Good behavior takes a year off the maidens’ time of service while bad behavior makes them weep and a day is added for every tear they shed. This has come under much criticism from scholars and reviewers…
I don’t relish the notion of the fishy bitch’s salvation, but it sure beats happily ever after!
So, was my astute critical analysis – which I did not phrase quite so eloquently in 1989 – appreciated by the father who trained young me to distill film into elements of production?
It was not.
THE LITTLE MERMAID left me in a foul mood. Snapping at all praise heaped on the travesty, I did my juvenile damnedest to ruin everyone else’s good time for the duration of that November afternoon. Eventually, foul mood and snide rejoinders escalated to full-scale, irrational tantrum, and I was sent straight to my room upon arrival at home…after a thorough tongue-lashing from Dad.
And rightfully so.
Teaching your children well includes shutting down their bad behavior.
KING TRITON IS A SHITTY FUCKING DAD!!!
Oh yes I did.
Alas, this has, again, gotten long. And I have, again, run out of Friday. So I shall, again, adjourn this series. Tune in two weeks from now for Musing #29: THE GRADUATE and The Evil of Censorship (Teach Your Children Well, Part III).
Until then, “Damn THE LITTLE MERMAID, full speed ahead!”