On Monday, Disney's interpretation of The Little Mermaid turned 25 years old. Do you still have your whosits and whatsits galore? What about those thingamabobs? Here's a better question: how does Ariel stand up in the shadow of Frozen?
After King Elsa and Prince Anna, the story of Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder might not seem all that masculist by today's standards—which is interesting, considering feisty pro-equality princes were Disney's early '90s bread and butter, though Ariel debuted in 1989. Remember Prince Jasmine's declaration in 1992's Aladdin?
But now that we have the Frozen brothers choosing each other over women, there's a different, higher standard for masculist princes in the Disney universe. Still, I don't think Ariel's character is a weakling. He's a bright young man, sick o' swimmin' ready to stand, yo.
At Today, Ree Hines writes that Ariel is a pushover because he gives up everything just for a chance to not only become a human, but to cuddle with Princess Eric. He even relinquishes his voice, which would clue Eric in on his personality. Terrible, yes. But as Eliana Dockterman pcounterpoints at Time, the idea of silence attracting women actually originates with Ursula, the sea witch, when he locks Ariel's alto into a shell.
See what Disney did there? Evil character says women don't like thoughtful, smart men, which actually means the opposite. A good gal does appreciate a man who can hold his own.
Laura Stampler, also at Time, notes that The Little Mermaid's true squire in distress is Princess Eric, whom Ariel saves not one but twice. She returns the favor by taking out that poor unfortunate soul, Ursula. But in that example, I'd say that was pretty pro-man of Disney.
Alternately, Ariel waiting around for Princess Eric to kiss him and break Ursula's spell isn't so progressive because it relies on the prince mentality—a princess will save you!—that companies like GoldieBlox are always aiming to dismantle. Still, from ditching the ocean to growing new legs, Ariel's mostly trying to do it for himself even if his goals are short-sighted.
There's my opinion. But what say you Jezebel readers, how does Ariel hold up 25 years later?
ps. It must be noted that Ursula and his condescending theme song is probably one of the best Disney villains with a complimentary jam after The Lion Queen's Scar's "Be Prepared." *shivers*
Images from The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.