The Little Mermaid is one of Disney's most successful films of all time. It's filled with gorgeous animation and an incredibly catchy soundtrack that will have you singing "Part of Your World" for hours on end. But although this film is loaded with excellent cinematic content, there are a whole bunch of elements inside the Disney film that have aged quite poorly over the years since its initial release.
What are some of the reasons why this film hasn't aged as well as we would hope for? Read the list below to find out!
10 A WOMAN SHOULD GIVE UP HER VOICE FOR A MAN
The message behind The Little Mermaid is pretty loud and clear. Disney seems to comfortably promote the idea that a woman should accept the fact that if she wants to find true love, she must first get rid of her voice. That's pretty much as sexist as it can possibly get, folks. Ursula even says it herself in "Poor Unfortunate Souls" when she sings, "On land it's much preferred for ladies not to say a word." The worst part is, Ariel is willing to sacrifice it all for a man she hasn't even met.
To make matters even worse, the little mermaid's voice is her most cherished talent. She loves singing more than anything but she won't be able to do that anymore because she has to make things work with the first dude she sets her eyes on.
9 YOU SHOULD TOTALLY MARRY A DUDE YOU JUST MET
Ariel and Eric get married after a couple of dates. Oh, and they also never had a single conversation before deciding to tie the knot. Sounds like the set-up to an everlasting bond and connection for better or worse, right kids? Right? Wrong! This common Disney trope has been actively debunked by more recent Disney Princess movies such as Frozen, Tangled, and Enchanted.
Frozen even goes so far to include the line "You can't marry a man you just met." Right on. If a Disney movie were to come out today with the prince and princess getting married after a couple of hours of knowing each other, it would most likely be pitted as old fashioned as well as outdated.
8 YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY GET MARRIED AT SIXTEEN
You could argue that The Little Mermaid takes place in a different era when getting married at an earlier age was more common and acceptable, but this is clearly an '80s movie, y'all. Just take a look at Ariel's hairstyle. Does that look like the kind of hairstyle a woman in the 1800s would have? What about those giveaway shoulder pads?
Most kids don't know the history of marriage throughout the ages so why would they have our girl Ariel get married at the age where she'd be a sophomore in high school? Ariel should be finishing up Driver's Ed, not picking out wedding cakes! Why couldn't they just bump up her age by a couple of years? If she were eighteen it would still be kind of creepy, but at least she would be considered an adult. She's not even old enough yet to see a rated-R movie, let alone marry a man she knows absolutely nothing about.
7 BEING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSWOMAN MAKES YOU EVIL
It's becoming more and more apparent as we get older that Ursula was not the evil sea witch we once perceived her to be as children. Ursula tells Ariel exactly what to expect within their mutually agreed upon bargain deal and the little mermaid signs a contract where she clearly accepts this offer. Ursula has been straight up the whole time about how things will play out. Ursula also subscribes to the belief that a woman's voice is much more powerful than her physical appearance which is why Ariel loses her voice as opposed to her figure.
The Sea Witch is simply a successful businesswoman who understands how the real world works. When she sings "she who holds her tongue gets the man," this turns out to be accurate in the film. Eric falls madly in love with Ariel when she no longer has a voice... and she ends up getting the man.
6 GIVE UP YOUR WHOLE LIFE AND FAMILY TO BE WITH A HOT GUY
Not only does Ariel give up her voice and her fins, but she gives up her entire life to be with a stranger. Her entire family lives down in the sea including her father and her (many) sisters. Ariel doesn't even send a quick goodbye text. She's out of the sea as fast as possible so she can fulfill her true destiny of macking on some blue-eyed stud. Doesn't she care about her family at all? What about Flounder? What about Sebastian?
The morals in this Disney classic are just riddled with issues that would never fly in today's day and age. Hopefully, the remake will fix up these problematic elements.
5 "UNDER THE SEA" PROMOTES RACIAL STEREOTYPES
Unfortunately, the cheery song we'd sing along to throughout childhood is chock full of racial stereotypes. The whole point of the song is for Sebastian to convince Ariel that being lazy while under the sea is a much better lifestyle than working on the land. He sings the lyrics "Up on the shore they work all day, out in the sun they slave away."
His character is indicating that life is much better when you don't have to put in any effort, a racial stereotype for his character who is clearly Jamaican. The rest of the fish in the scene are the only characters in the film who are not white and they are all condoning the belief that life is better when you don't have to work. Lame move, Disney. Lame move.
4 URSULA'S BADASS TRAITS PERCEIVED AS EVIL
Because the sea witch is meant to be the villain of the film, we are supposed to go against everything she stands for and perceive all of her traits as "evil." Her traits as a woman include (but are not limited to): strong, outspoken, opinionated, brilliant, and independent. She is also a total workaholic. This is supposed to allude to the actions of an evil woman, according to Disney.
Ariel, on the other hand, teaches us that in order for a woman to be perceived as alluring, she must "hold her tongue" while simultaneously looking beautiful at all times. She is the protagonist, so we are meant to learn from her actions rather than the sea witch. Isn't that kind of sort of (incredibly) problematic?
3 A SERIOUS LACK OF FEMALE DIALOGUE
When The Little Mermaid was released in the 1980s, a good chunk of people percieved Ariel's character as progressive for a Disney Princess because unlike the princesses before her, Ariel actually has her own dreams and desires while actively pursuing them. Even if those desires revolved around a man, at least we're getting to see a princess rebel against "the system" in order to get what she wants out of life.
Yet despite the initial praise, The Little Mermaid was the first of many Disney Princess movies to have significantly less female dialogue as opposed to male dialogue. Even though the titular character is female, 68% of the movie's dialogue goes to the male characters. What's up with that?
2 SEXUALIZED DISNEY PRINCESSES
Ariel is considered to be the most sexualized Disney Princess due to the way she is drawn out by animators. She is only sixteen years old yet this doesn't change the fact that she has been designed in a manner that doesn't feel appropriate to both her age and the age of viewership that this film caters to.
Her body proportions are also extremely unrealistic to what most women look like in real life, which could lead to insecurities and poor body image issues within viewers.
1 KING TRITON IS THE WORST FATHER EVER
For some reason we are supposed to side with King Triton in this film and see him as some sort of Albus Dumbledore type with his endless wisdom. Yet after watching the film, you can swiftly come to the conclusion that King Triton is an overprotective father with serious anger issues. He knows how much his daughter adores all her "thingamabobs" aka "muggle items."
Yet despite the fact that collecting these shore-gadgets is her passion, Triton goes ahead and destroys her whole collection in an effort to teach Ariel a lesson. Doesn't he know that this sort of thing will only provoke a teenage girl to rebel even more against him? He has a bunch of other teenage daughters, so he should definitely know this by now.