The Little Mermaid: why I’m no longer cool with one of my favorite childhood movies 


Okay, you may think I’m a little crazy after reading this [if you didn’t already], but hear me out…

As a parent, you are faced with many things to worry about. Most things you will worry about, and some you won’t. It’s going to depend on the type of person you are, the type of parent you are, the things you worried about pre-children, etc. For example, I have never worried much about germs pre-Maggie, and I’m still not much of a germaphobe even though I have a fourteen month old. Maybe I should be? I mean, I wash Maggie’s hands, and bathe her of course. [I’m not a total wacko.] But I’m not going to have a fit if Maggie eats something off our kitchen floor, or her cousins dog licks her face, or she’s playing with someone who has a runny nose. I don’t know why, but germs don’t really bother me much. And I’m not trying to say, “Look at me! I’m great! I’m so laid back!” Because there are plenty of things I am not laid back about, don’t you worry.

Another example, television. I know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two, but…are you kidding me? Two years is a while to not see TV — and not just the TV, but iPhones, iPads, etc. I’m not sure about your kid, but I’m pretty sure mine came out pre-programmed to understand how an iPhone works. Seriously, the day she was born, she FaceTimed her aunt and uncle in California by herself.

It’s not like we plopped Maggie down in front of the TV and put shows on for her since she was born. We did wait quite a while, but slowly decided to introduce some shows and a couple of movies here and there. TV time is saved for when Maggie needs to just wind down and relax, or for when I’m finishing up cooking dinner and the like. For TV shows, Maggie watches Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer. She loves both! For movies, she watches Rio 2 — the music is great in it, and the message is strong and meaningful [follows a flock of birds on their journey to the Amazon — teaches us about love, friendship, and important lessons about conservation — all the while keeping us laughing the whole way.]

So, the other day, I decided it was time to introduce Maggie to a new movie — since Colin and I have been reciting the lines of Rio 2 to each other way more than we should be. [See you back at home, my tasty mango!] Anyway, I decided on The Little Mermaid. I absolutely LOVED The Little Mermaid when I was a little girl. It was tied with Cinderella for my favorite Disney movie. I knew all the words, and sang all the songs in the car with my mom on my cassette tape. I thought, yea Maggie will be into this — good music, colorful characters — it’ll be a win.

I’m here to tell you, it was a big LOSE for me. Rewatching movies from your childhood as an adult is a strange thing. Adult Colleen, mother Colleen, doesn’t really like The Little Mermaid. It has a terrible, ridiculous message. Let me break it down for you.

Mermaid sees hottie.

Mermaid automatically decides, “Yes, I am in love with said hottie.

Mermaid lives in ocean with father, sisters, and friends.

Mermaid doesn’t want to live in ocean with father, sister, and friends anymore.

Mermaid doesn’t even want to be a mermaid anymore!

Mermaid wants to be a human to impress hottie.

Mermaid makes a deal with the devil [Ursula].

Mermaid gives up her voice — so she can no longer sing beautifully anymore, let alone SPEAK because she gave up her voice so she could be human so she could make the hottie fall in love with her.

Mermaid gets to shore, meets up with hottie/prince and realizes “Wow I have no voice, I cannot communicate with hottie. Good thing I have beautiful red hair, puppy dog eyes, and a nice rack. Because when you have that triple threat, who needs a voice! Amirite??”

Hottie is set to marry another woman in like a day, and mermaid needs to break that ish up so she can marry him. Because, the deal with the devil/Ursula.

Blah, blah, blah, other things happen, blah, blah, blah…

*Spoiler alert*

The mermaid and hottie/prince get married, she gets her voice back, and Ursula dies.

The mermaid makes a deal with the devil and comes out unscathed.

The mermaid gives up her father, sisters, friends, and her home [the ocean] like *that* because of a guy she has the hots for that she hardly even knows.

Yes they “fall in love” and live “happily ever after”, but don’t tell me for one second Ariel and Eric don’t fight over his father-in-law King Triton causing a stink because he lost his baby girl mermaid to a human, or the fact that Eric’s ex-fiance was a total bitch. Why did Ariel need to give up everything to find love on land? Aren’t there — dare I say it — plenty of fish in the sea?

Okay, back to a more serious note. I know this is just another Disney princess movie, but really — what kind of message is this sending to our kids? Keep quiet and look beautiful and you’ll get what you want? The guy? Is that what they should be striving for? Give up everything when you find the man you think you love, so that he’ll marry you? Forget about your family and friends? It just doesn’t sit well with my adult self, and I don’t really want Maggie to watch it. I know it may not mean much to her right now at fourteen months, but if you watch something enough over the years — and you know kids with movies, they could watch the same movie a million times and not get sick of it — some of those messages seep into your brain, your self-esteem, your emotions. I don’t mind TV and movies and screen time here and there at all — but I do mind what Maggie watches, and I want to be careful with what I expose her to at such an early age.

Now, I really do not mean to offend you by any means. If you are a parent who has a son or daughter who loves The Little Mermaid — it is okay. I am picking on this movie, I am not picking on you. If you don’t obsess over it like I have, or over think it — yea this is a super cute movie with great music and colorful characters. I don’t blame people for loving it! And yes, I’m sure they could be watching a LOT worse shows and movies out there. I would just like to urge us all to continue to be mindful of what we are putting in front of our children.

I know you may be thinking “lighten up, it’s just a movie!“…but like I said, while some people get worked up about germs and their baby — I don’t [really]. Similarly, someone may not get worked up about what their kids watch on TV, but I do. I’ve always been really interested in women in the media — how they are portrayed on screen. I love the magic of television and movies. I love powerful, smart female characters. I am incredibly proud to be a mother of a little girl, and I hope I can show Maggie what it means to be a confident, smart, kind, do-anything type of woman. That’s my mission, and I’m sorry Ariel, but you don’t really fit into that.

What kids show or movies are you not into for your child? 

What is something you worry about as a parent? 


3 thoughts on “The Little Mermaid: why I’m no longer cool with one of my favorite childhood movies 

  1. The historical Castro Theater does monthly sing alongs here in SF. It is a really fun time where kids and adults dress up and sing to their favorite movie! Last year I saw beauty and the beast. I was trying to have fun but also totally distracted by the story line. 11 year old boy who lives alone in a mansion gets cursed for not letting a stranger inside…

    And thats just the start!

    So, I don’t think you sound out of line saying the movie gives a bad message, but maybe it’s also important to remember that this movie was a favorite to most of our generation, and the strong impowered lady friends we met at Merrimack (and elsewhere) didn’t grow up thinking that is the way women should be (or at least I sure hope!!!).

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Coll, My favorite movie of all time is “Bullit” w/ Steve McQueen. Please, please, please! Do not do a critique of this movie. I like it just the way it is. Fast, violent and explosive! Happy Easter.

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