My mom and I took the girls to Costco the other morning. It's always fun to go anywhere with the kiddos, but especially to places where we will inevitably come across a Disney character on a book cover or a box of diapers, because it's fun to watch Bethany's reaction. If she sees Pooh or Buzz Lightyear, she points and excitedly announces their presence. If she sees any of the Disney Princesses, her eyes get very wide and she leans out of the shopping cart, calling out each of their names. And if she sees The Little Mermaid, she practically hyperventilates.
Ariel is by far her favorite of the Disney princesses. We have multiple Ariel dolls, I am the human jukebox for Ariel songs, and I have been known to fashion a rather impressive play-dough Ariel. We think it's adorable that she's so enamored with The Little Mermaid, and has been for months now. As she gets older, however, and as we become more familiar with the Doctrines of Disney, Matthew and I have come to realize that Ariel may not be such a stellar role model for our daughter.
Ariel deals with a myriad of issues, most significantly a self-centered mindset with little concern for others and a general lack of discernment. But we have to be somewhat understanding. After all, she is living in a single-parent home (as are all Disney Princesses) with a father who has an anger problem. To add to her predisposition to selfishness, she is the youngest in a long line of markedly uglier sisters and is unquestionably her father's favorite child. From this dysfunctional family setting, several themes arise that flew right by me as a kid, but now as a mom raise some major eyebrow.
First of all, the main statement the movie makes is to follow your heart- even if it means directly disobeying your father and signing away your life to a massively overweight power-hungry octopus-woman. Second thing I never noticed: By the time the movie ends with newly-wed Ariel floating off into the sunset on her wedding ship, the average watcher who hasn't seen the film 36 times has most likely forgotten that Ariel clearly stated her age earlier on in the movie... she is a mere sixteen years old. Her daddy of course gives this marriage his blessing and in fact makes it possible by magically giving her legs, but what can we expect from a father who passes off his parental responsibilities to a crab.
If I had nothing else to do, I would probably have a lot of fun making sequels to these fairytale movies. The post-honeymoon tension is already building in my mind... Prince Eric and Ariel go out to dinner, and Eric orders the flounder.... Eric wants to watch the big game at his favorite sports bar, but they card Ariel at the door.... King Triton wants the pair home for the holidays, but Eric can't breathe underwater. Probably didn't have time to think through these kinds of details during their 3-day courtship.
Admittedly, I am going a little overboard (yuk yuk) for the sake of what I call humor. Matthew and I are not going to burn all the Little Mermaid paraphernalia and boycott Disney, but we will need to be mindful of what our daughters are taking in. In reality, we will probably end up drawing a number of lessons from the Disney princesses and will find ample teaching opportunities in them as Bethany gets older. After all, there is some truth in every lie. Like the princesses, we are all born longing for something more; something greater than ourselves. There is in fact a grand Prince to fall madly in love with. And, best of all, there most certainly is a happily ever after.