I cannot describe to you how much I love The Little Mermaid. The movie is permanently stuck in my brain. Sometimes when I’m a little bit drunk, I find myself humming “Part of your world” on the way home. I have a bunch of assorted Ariel artwork on my wall. I have at least six t-shirts featuring Ariel. I have a Little Mermaid edition compact mirror I use to check/adjust my makeup on the go. I have a limited-edition Little Mermaid eye-shadow palette that I got from Sephora. I have a dress with Ariel all over it. Oh, and I have a great big tattoo of her on my left forearm.
I think it’s fair to say that The Little Mermaid has been a pretty big part of my life.
I saw The Little Mermaid in the cinema – my dad took us to see it when it first came out in 1989. It was the first movie I ever saw in the theatres. For years afterwards, I watched it over and over again on VHS. I remember being nine years old at school towards the end of the school year, and people had brought in some movies to watch. One of them was The Little Mermaid, and I remember one of the other boys in my class defending it, saying to the other kids “No, it’s not really a girls movie!”. We watched it. I was pretty happy about that. When I was a teenager, I remember thinking that one day, when I had absurd amounts of money, I would buy an original animation cel from The Little Mermaid and hang it up on my wall. Turns out that the good ones are many, many thousands of dollars, and thus far I don’t have that kind of moolah.
I feel like I always related to Ariel. As a kid, I probably just thought she was smart and beautiful – she was an explorer and a collector. And she was a girl – and even at six years old, that was already something I was already relating to. As a teenager, I related to that feeling of… being stuck, or trapped. Wanting more than what my life could provide. Wanting to know more things, wanting to go out and explore and discover, but not being able to. As an adult, I still find all those qualities admirable. Not to be shallow, but did I already mention that she’s stunningly gorgeous?
Ariel is headstrong and independent. She’s curious and unsatisfied. She’s funny, smart, and beautiful. She’s deeply in love, and does what it takes to make it work (alongside selling her soul to a witch, who’s using her to blackmail the sea-king for ultimate power. Some perspective there would’ve been good, Ariel – but you’re sixteen and smitten. I get that. I flew to a different country when I was sixteen to meet a girl I met on the internet. Cut from the same cloth, you and I). I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that I wish I was as awesome as Ariel.
“Part of your world” is an amazing song (Apart from the fact that it’s incredibly poorly named)*. I think it’s something that I’ve always found I relate to. It’s a feminist song about independence (“Bright young women, sick of swimming, ready to stand!”). It’s about a desire to learn more (“Ready to know what the people know, ask them my questions and get some answers!”). It’s about being unsatisfied with what her currently (admittedly privileged) life can give (“Wouldn’t you think I’m the the girl, the girl who has everything?”). But also I think there’s certainly an element of the song that speaks strongly to my lifelong gender…situation (I hesitate to use the word “issues” on account of the fact that I don’t consider them issues in the problematic sense, and maybe only other people do!).
Here is this person, deeply enamoured by a world she is wholly separate from, due to biological differences. Sounds a bit familiar, no? Her fascination of human things resembles my fascination with female things. I see parallels in her innocent enchantment with the dinglehopper mirroring my own enchantment with makeup. Maybe even her initial fumbles trying to pass as a human mirror my own fumblings with makeup and clothes, trying to pass as female. That said, I think she was more successful.
When Ariel becomes human, she has trouble getting used to her new legs. I know I’ve felt that way getting used to walking in heels.
And I know for a fact that my initial forays into female fashion weren’t great…
…but I think I’ve improved over time (although maybe not to this extent!).
And I’ve definitely felt like this after a long day of wearing heels:
Is that too deep a reading into a movie ostensibly made for children? Maybe. But I’ve been told that audience interpretation can be valid regardless of author intent, so I don’t care :D
In a strange way, I think Ariel’s always been a role-model of mine. I’m not ashamed to say that. Wanting to explore, to learn, to love, and to want more from life. Brains, beauty and boldness – those are all qualities I think we should all be chasing.
*PET PEEVE: She never sings the words “Part of your world” in the main body of the song – check it out. She always sings “Part of that world”, meaning the human world. She hasn’t even seen Eric at that point. She only sings “Part of your world” a few minutes later, after she sees Eric, in the reprise. It is not a love song to Eric. It is a love song to a world that she can’t be a part of. ;_;
You are not the only person to identify and love Ariel. In looking at most of the Disney princesses, there is a common thread with which I think those of us in the transgender community can identify with. Brave and Moana come to mind.