I have been told I don’t watch movies or shows like a normal person. While people tend to watch things in order to… well, enjoy them, I tend to over analyze things because it’s just who I am.
One scene that has plagued me since childhood, is from the Disney animated classic, The Little Mermaid. That being the entire song Kiss The Girl and its accompanying scene, and how it is one of the most confusing moments in a Disney movie.
So for those who somehow have never seen The Little Mermaid, quick recap! Ariel is the youngest (thus littlest) daughter of Trident, King of the sea. Ariel is inquisitive and wants to explore the world, most importantly the human world. While speaking on it, she falls in love with Prince Eric, who seems to have nothing better to do all day but sail. Ariel needs legs and decides to make a deal with the fabulous sea witch, Ursula, who promises to give her legs for a bit in exchange for her voice but if she can’t get the prince to fall in love with her she will turn into “a poor unfortunate soul” (sorry small segment of people who didn’t see the movie, that is just a shout out to one of the best Disney songs ever). So Ariel heads out, being helped by her father’s advisor Sebastian the crab and Ariel‘s best fish friend Flounder. Plot happens, people get tricked, someone gets impaled with a ship, true love happens – queue sequel films and prequel TV show.
Now I know there exist a lot of modern criticism of The Little Mermaid as a fairy tale because we have this inquisitive teen, who sacrifices her ability to speak for a bit in order to go flirt with some weird two-legged guy, with the original ending being much darker for everyones favorite mermaid. I understand that discussion and while I don’t want to detract from it, I would instead like to address several questions raised by this roughly 3-minute long song.
Because there are a lot.
NOW! During Ariel’s quest to have someone like her (once again understanding why some people have a bit of an issue with this movie), she gets taken on a romantic-moonlit… rowboat ride through what appears to be a very nice swamp.
Ariel, unable to speak, and Eric finding her interesting but the lack of communication being a barrier, suddenly has the help of Sebastian, Flounder, and other critters singing them a love song. Encouraging Eric to kiss Ariel.
And thus begin the confusion, as while the film shows the merfolk talking to sea creatures, and the new full human Ariel understanding the humans, there is no full-scale conversation exchange. It is such a distraction when Eric tries to guess Ariel’s name, Sebastian whispers it into his ear, AND ERIC UNDERSTANDS HIM! Looking over his shoulder for a moment before repeating what he just heard, Ariel confirming it, Eric just prides himself on getting it right.
Whats even more interesting is that Sebastian has a Jamaican accent. That means that Eric believes his internal voice to be that of a Jamaican singing crab. He believes his guiding voice to be some disembodied internal Jamaican, encouraging him to try dating. Eric even changes the pronunciation as Sebastian pronounces it AH-riel, and Eric says it like Aer-riel. This just makes the whole scene, like 10 times more confusing as you question if the song in the background that the animals are playing is actually being understood by Eric.
I love musicals, and I tend to believe that most songs are either a conversation being had, internal thoughts being expressed via song or a mix of the two. A good example of this would be the song, It’s Been A Long Day from the musical, How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. But because in Kiss The Girl, there are lyrics, full lyrics that the couple seems to respond to, it is hard to not say to say that it is being spoken outloud. They alter the mood. They seem to coincide with some flirtatious looks. However, Eric isn’t alarmed by the fact that there seems to be a full big band creeping on him and the mute girl he sorta kinda thinks he is getting to know. Maybe Eric is into it, the boredom of the wealthy and powerful, am I right?
What I will then question next is the full scale of what this means for the world of The Little Mermaid. Eric’s kingdom is shown to be made up of what mostly seems to be fishermen and sailors. They catch and eat fish regularly.
Do the fish talk to them?
Do the fish plead for their lives?
Their screams and cries of how they too, enjoy mood-setting slow jams held in swamps go unheard because they just don’t have the right accent or the prince is zoning out because popcorn shrimp is delicious? Or does he ignore it because otherwise his seafaring people would suffer economically as well as starve?
Perhaps Eric is somehow special. I will accept that theory “because of magic”. But then why isn’t he flipping out? How often does this happen? Why take a girl to a swamp? I know it is sorta nice looking, but gnats and etc? Given the time period and location that The Little Mermaid is believed to take place, shouldn’t Sebastian’s accent really be out of place for Eric?
DO YOU SEE WHY THIS SCENE BOTHERS ME!?
I’m a lot like you. If a scene or character doesn’t make sense I have a hard time dealing and often rewrite the plot to my sensibilities – but it’s usually a story with real living characters or a situation that can actually happen.
I really had no issue with this movie because I didn’t over analyze it. It was a cute cartoon musical with a happy ending – typical Disney.
What I did find interesting in Disney’s version over Anderson’s (both stories present the theme of self sacrifice to obtains one’s dreams), the Disney version doesn’t convey the consequences of what is lost when following one’s dreams.
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