No, not that one. I mean, the idea that anyone or anyone in great numbers is particularly outraged because the actress hired to play The Little Mermaid is black is honestly ridiculous.
The fact that that “controversy” was started by a “troll account” and more people slapped it down than not, leads me to believe Disney was counting on controversy to push the film, and when they didn’t get it they made it up. Pfui.
Sure, there are people who are outraged about the casting, but for most of them it has absolutely zero to do with race. For most it has to do with the fact that the live version won’t look like the “real” i.e. animated Ariel. And never mind that to look like that, most live women would have to carry their guts in a handbag.
That’s not a race, or even a really rational thing. It’s the way you defend the memories of your childhood. I’m fortunate in that I didn’t have a TV till I was 8 and other than little improving movies shown by our church, I didn’t watch a movie in a theater till I was 14. (Asterix the Gaul.) So it’s really, really hard to “break” the memories of childhood for me. Though honestly, given my druthers, I’d take ALL the “improved and updated” Enid Blyton books and make a big bonfire. That stuff is just wrong. As wrong as J. K. Rowling’s Tweets that drive my boys insane. (“Wizards poop how? Just shut up, lady.”)
No, for me what happened to the Little Mermaid when the movie was made was the REAL tragedy. Btw, it’s not even a memory of childhood, that. I only read the fairy tales during a weird folklore-interest period somewhere around 12 or 16. (I don’t remember. Also, there might have been two periods.)
The thing is, it struck me, at the time, as very weird that Disney was doing The Little Mermaid, because it’s not, like Cinderella or Snow White a love story. It’s a growing up story. (Yes, it also has very strong Christian undertones, but most of all it’s a growing up story.)
So, of course Disney changed it into a romance. Which made it all wrong.
Recently Peterson was giving some explanation of how females grow up based on the little mermaid and used the Disney version which made me yell. A friend reminded me 99.9% of people in the US know ONLY the movie version.
But the thing is that the original story is such a perfect allegory of a girl growing up. This is somewhat obscured in our day of idols and celebrities. Girls often develop a crush on a celebrity or a fictional character, so things don’t work the same.
Due to growing up in pre-history, I had an emotional arc that was exactly like the little mermaid, and my guess is when the story was codified it matched most early adollescent girls.
For those not informed: the mermaid falls in love with the prince, rescues him from drowning but he never knows. She then trades her aquatic kingdom for land and every step on land feels like walking on knives. Also she’s mute. With those handicaps she can’t attract his love, but there’s also indications she’s too young: he treats her as a pretty child, not a woman. If she can marry him, she’ll become fully human and acquire a soul (which merfolk don’t have.)
The prince marries someone else, and she faces dissolving into foam. Her sisters give her a magical knife. If she kills the prince with it, she’ll be allowed to return to her former life. Instead she throws the knife away and becomes a “daughter of the air.” (some kind of benevolent spirit.) If she does well at that, she’ll then have a soul.
Now this strikes many people as a not at all happy ending, but it is.
To anyone who’s been a young girl in a traditional society, we know d*mn well what it’s like to fall in love with someone completely our of our reach: a creature from another world.
Young girls, fourteen or so, fall in love with older boys. Not terribly older, but those we perceive as “men.” In my case he was 4 years older, which might as well have been 20. Our worlds were completely different, and he viewed me as a little kid.
For that man’s sake, the girl transitions between the comfortable world of childhood and the world of a young woman. She walks on knives and loses her voice. (Seriously. It felt like that. It’s a sort of acculturation, which is always painful.) And if she’s lucky, she gets treated like a sort of pet. As in, what young men do when faced with a child of either sex who adores them.
If she’s very lucky, she also overcomes her jealousy of the woman that man picks, and embraces her destiny as a full grown up being, one who will eventually have a soul of her own, and contract an alliance with a man more suited. Or not. As she pleases, being a grown up with her own soul.
Perhaps that story makes absolutely no sense in this day and age, as between movie-crushes and the fact that sexual-emotional maturity is pushed on girls earlier and earlier there is no dreaming ‘underwater’ garden of childhood for them, and no innocent early teen crushes. In fact, they’ll be encouraged to date boys their own age, by the age-segregated schools.
Maybe the little mermaid, the original, is a memory of a process that no longer happens. (Whether it’s good or bad that it doesn’t happen is something else. I think it made for more solid, grown up women than the current frantic pseudo adulthood. But maybe I’m just yelling for the youngsters to get off my lawn.) And maybe Disney made the right decision when they turned it into a somewhat juvenile love story.
But to me the movie lost the power and sweet-sadness of the original story, the understanding you can’t always get what you want; that obsession doesn’t give you any right to another person’s love; and that it’s part of growing up to love and lose.
I think that’s what made the story so strong and poignant. It’s something you can sort of read in the statue of the little mermaid. A growing up girl, looking back with nostalgia but also understanding on the childhood she lost.
As we all do.