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A Fish Out of Water in Messages To Young Children

The majority of little girls go through a period in which their lives are led by the philosophies taught by the Disney princesses. That one day, purely by chance, you will find true love at first sight from just a single glance, and your prince will come save your from the tower, the dragon, or from the evil stepmother. But if all of this does not happen by the time you reach the end of your teenage years, well, too bad, there goes your chance at happiness, and the only other option is to become an evil queen, totally envious of the lucky ones that managed to find the prince. And if you are anything other than society's definition of a beautiful woman, then why would you even waste your time trying? That is, unless you can find some way to change what you are.

Since its release in 1989, the Disney movie The Little Mermaid has captivated young audiences with the story of Ariel, the mermaid who willingly gives up her beautiful voice in exchange for human legs to find her love, Prince Eric. At first glance, it is a touching tale about a young girl willing to sacrifice something dear to her in order to receive the opportunity to find Prince Eric, but once examined further, the message that it gives is a bit off-putting.

Ariel was under the perception that all her problems would be resolved if she could only be human. She could have a charmingly handsome husband, and a home on land. But in order for this to become a reality, Ariel had to leave everything from her ocean life behind, including her home, her friends, and her family. She sacrificed her own identity to adopt that of another in order to be with her "one true love." Relationships and marriage should be about a balance of sacrifice and devotion between the two people involved, yet Ariel's and Prince Eric's is horribly tipped. In order to be with their each other, Ariel gave up her entire way of life, and Prince Eric not only lost nothing, but gained a wife from it. In the Disney-verse, everyone who does good always gets their happy ending, but in real life, would this marriage have lasted very long? It's doubtful.

What message is this delivering to the young girls who are watching this movie? That silence is golden, and that they should just smile and look pretty? That giving up who they are and who they are is worth a chance at possibly finding a spouse? It all seems very against what people are advocating these days- acceptance. Acceptance of the differences of everybody, and the acknowledgement that it is exactly those differences which make an individual just that- a unique, distinctive person, and not just part of a homogeneous mass. Because in this world, there are no evil sea witches that can grant you your heart's desire in exchange for what may give her what she most desires.





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