For my other Feminism in Film posts, go here.
I love many of the songs from The Little Mermaid. They're great for sing alongs!
It should be noted that Ariel is the first princess to dream about something other than a man. She sings about walking on land, not of finding true love. Go girl! But...the only reason she seeks an actual change is because she sees Eric and wants to be with him. Which is not so great. Also, Eric wasn't the one spying on Ariel. She spies on him! Definitely a change from the previous movies. However, I'm really tired of Disney couples becoming madly in love when they don't even know each other's names. This is so not realistic.
Ariel's relationship with her father is also worth noting. He is very restrictive on where she is allowed to go and what she is allowed to do. Symbol of the our repressive patriarchal society? Possibly. Ariel dreams of a different world and her father won't allow her to follow her dreams. That's some bad parenting right there.
Oh, look! Still no female friendships!
Ursula definitely falls under the category of Evil Demon Seductress, which is a common trope. While Ursula may not be traditionally sexy at first, she transforms herself into Vanessa. Vanessa then proceeds to manipulate and seduce Eric.
White washing. But a Jamaican crab? I also don't care for the stereotyped French chef. I mean, come on.
She is known for her singing voice, which is at least a skill. The previous princesses were only known for their beauty. But let's get right down to the biggest problem: Ariel trades her voice for legs. She gives up her right to speak. She is a woman who has been silenced. Ursula actually has lines that include "you have your looks, your pretty face, and don't underestimate the importance of body language", and that men "prefer for girls not to say a word...it's she who holds her tongue that gets the man". SO MANY PROBLEMS. A woman should never have to change for a man.
Eric is the one who ultimately destroys Ursula. So once again, the princess doesn't save herself.
The Bechdel Test
*two named women? YES (Ariel, Ursula)
*who talk to each other? YES
*about something other than men? NO
Their only conversation takes place when they strike a bargain to turn Ariel into a human so she can get Eric. Ursula gives her some tips on how to get a man - mainly, don't talk.
Two and a Half Stars