• Wed, Oct 3 2012

I Regret The Day I Let My Daughter Watch ‘The Little Mermaid’

A few months ago, I made a mistake. I let my child watch The Little Mermaid. While we generally only watch a half an hour of TV on a rainy day if ever, I was working on a deadline and I made this one error that I’ll most likely regret for a long time to come.

This seemingly innocent Disney film has made its way into my daughter’s mind and doesn’t seem to be checking out anytime soon. The first time my 2-year-old hollered “I’m not a child!” I thought it was weird and mildly hilarious. It wasn’t until later I realized her mangled rebellion was in fact from The Little Mermaid. It hadn’t occurred to me that this movie was too mature for her, as I knew plenty of people who allowed their 2- or 3-year-olds to watch Disney movies on a weekly or even daily basis.

“What negative impact could a one-time viewing really have?” I thought. If I had only known that my child would start screaming lines from it at me — lines that she heard Ariel say — and think it was a legit, I would have thought better of it. Perhaps I had too much trust in the Disney name.

Not only do I have to play the part of Prince Eric or King Triton until I physically cannot make myself say the words “I forbid you to go to the surface again” under very specific instruction anymore, but thanks to well-meaning grandparents snatching up every piece of mermaid merchandise that Target has to offer, Ariel has now inserted herself into every waking moment of our lives. She comes in the tub, the bed, to the pool and the beach. At this point, I am so effing over you, Ariel, I could scream.

But it’s not even the rate at which we are playing The Little Mermaid games that drive me nuts. It’s that I’m so freaking uncomfortable with what we are playing. First off, why does Ariel have to be a princess? Why can’t she just be a regular little mermaid who wants to grow legs and walk the earth and do really cool things because she’s curious? Secondly, the premise of the story is pretty whack. She morphs herself into a human at the age of 16 to go be with some dude she saw on a boat? And why at the end of the movie is her father like, “yeah okay, you can marry him now. I’m over it”?

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  • Jojo

    I agree but for different reasons. I could never ever imagine giving up being a mermaid. Not for a single moment. I mean I could understand if she had both in the end but the movie makes it pretty clear that she’s stuck as human. Hello resentment and sadness would kick in 3..2..1.. That movie saddened me so much as a child partially because I always wanted to see what it was like to be a mermaid and I love the ocean. The idea of giving that up is just devastating. No guy is with that.

  • Trinity

    Exactly I agree with daisy/ / / u are just to over protective every little girl loves princesses and the tought of getting married and Ariel just chases her dreams in that movie. And I Love Ariel

  • Alex

    Dear Sarah, I wonder how is the Ariel problem going after a year. But I don’t really think you should worry so much. More than seeing the negative influence you seem to be so worried about, you need to relax. I’m 25 and I’ve a 10 years old little sister, she is totally in love with Ariel since she was 3, in fact I gave her the movie as a present, and yes, she used to sing and act all the movie, she even acted as Ursula and pulled her own hair to imitate the part when Ariel is saving Eric from her attack, she talked talked and talked just about Ariel, and even my Dad was mad at me because I gave her the movie, but now she is 10, even if she still loves Ariel, she turned into a very smart girl, first in class, and her motivation in life is not just to meet a charming prince as Eric and marry him, in fact the other day she told me, I can’t believe Ariel married Eric and she was only 16!!! I can’t imagine myself marrying sooo young!…see my point? With time, your little girl, as she grows, will make her own personal opinion, not strongly based in a disney princess as a role model, I think Disney gives children the hope to believe in love, magic and the power of dreams, is part of their inocence…and you know, life doesn’t always have a happy ending, so sometimes you just need let them to believe and find their own way to live their lifes and be there for them and give advice in the right moment

  • Cambria

    Let your daughter play with the stupid princess. You are over thinking it entirely and it’s something your daughter loves. When I was that age I was the same sort of obsessed with cinderella, my mom had to deal with it even though it wasn’t her favorite (actually her favorite was Ariel) and she humored me and I turned out fine. In no way do I have misconstrued conceptions about life and marriage. Let your daughter love princesses, she only gets to be a kid once. And having such adult interpretations of the movie keep her from loving things that kids should love isn’t fair to her. Let her make her own judgements as she grows up.

  • Chris Skalski

    Sounds like a super strict mom gets her just reward.

  • Rabbit

    Wow, its you that has issues mom….not your daughter….yikes! Bitterness is one of them… what does your husband think? Oh wait, you’re married but dont think ‘its for you’….. well ‘theres your sign’….
    Dont drag your daughter down with you….seriously

  • Abby

    Hi there. I’m so late on the band wagon, but I know a lot of parents who get concerned about Disney, so for their sake I’m throwing in my two cents. So funny that the little mermaid should be the topic of choice here because when I was little I adored Ariel. I sang Part of Your World incessantly, and even insisted my parents called me Ariel for a little while. I don’t insist they call me Ariel anymore, but Disney is still something that I hold very dear to me. I can tell you’re concerned by why your daughter is obsessed with Ariel, and my best answer for you is that it’s a kid thing. She might like the princess because of her voice, or because of her pretty hair, or because of her cool underwater palace. My younger brother watched the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron over and over and over again for a couple of months when he was about two years old. Then he moved on. Kids have a tendency to latch on to things, and I highly doubt your daughter’s love of the movie is really something unhealthy.

    One of the beautiful things about Disney is the underlying message in their movies. As adults we can tear them apart of inaccuracies, feminist flaws, and occasional mild moral ambiguity, but I promise that’s not what kids see. Let’s start with Walt Disney, the man himself. His philosophy revolved around family and family values. He set up these theme parks where staff are encouraged to keep families together and maximize family time. The Little Mermaid, like most of their movies from that time period, actually portrays a really interesting family. As a kid, I recognized the dynamic between Ariel and her father as a typical father/daughter relationship. It wasn’t until I was older that having seen a relationship like that really affected me. Every teenager has struggles with their parents. Sheltering your child from exposure to that fact can lead them to feeling like something’s wrong with them when such problems arise later on in their lives. King Triton and Ariel are dynamic and over the course of the story come to understand one another through love, which is something that carries into adulthood: so long as you put love first you’ll pull through.

    Why not use your daughter’s obsession with Ariel to your advantage? Rather than condemning it and hoping it goes away, use it as an opportunity to teach her about perseverance (something that whether we like Ariel or not, we can all agree she has a lot of). Despite many, many obstacles (read: Ursula), Ariel never gives up and eventually achieves her dream. Next time your daughter decides something is too hard you can use her favourite princess to help teach her.
    Remember, there is wisdom is every walk of life, don’t be too quick to condemn something that could be good for her.

  • Jane

    Ariel’s desire to go to the surface was because of her love of human things, not Eric. And she’s a princess because– well, because Disney has an entire line-up of princesses. And those princesses aren’t princesses because of their royal parentage (some are royal, of course, but that’s not why they’re included), it’s because of acts of heroinism or bravery that earn them the honorary title of princess. Which is a great message for a child, I think– that you aren’t a princess because of what you were born with, but what you make yourself to be.

  • Jodi Miles

    Omg… Really? Is every little girls dream to be a princess and may her Prince charming! But they eventually grow out of it! PLEASE! I’M SO SICK OF THESE FRIGGIN by the book mom’s who state… Disney is teaching or children such horrible ideas! Most Disney movies only depict how children, in this case, Ariel, defy their parents to do what is what they think is right for them! If we, as parents in reality, allow our children continue this fantasy or dream as they get to be older. .. then it’s your own darn fault! The fact that parents don’t discipline children anymore is the true problem! It’s definitely not a friggin Disney movie! Come on lady!

  • alicia

    He forbids her to the surface because her mother was killed by humans. If you have seen Aries beginnings you would know why he really doesn’t want her to be around humans.

  • Seraphim

    Thank you, Aria, for mentioning the Hans Christian Andersen story. By the way, the age of the princess in the story is also 16. I agree with Aria’s post. I know this is an old discussion, but I read and read articles like this, and I wonder if anyone ever realizes how foolish you authors look whining about how Disney rears your children. Yes. If you are not doing it, then someone else is..

    I have a couple of points to add to Aria’s knowledgeable and eloquent post.

    The girl was 2. Is it possible to think that there is any major motion picture that is NOT too mature for a child that age?

    Parents are responsible for their children’s development, including what they
    view. You were on a deadline? So, you slipped your standards because you
    had to do a job. Are not your children your priority? Do you not have a
    responsibility to know and preview what you allow your children to just
    absorb? Can you not set boundaries for the grandparents? Are you the
    one in charge or is your toddler?

    On that point, the world is not owned and run by the children. Why should anyone else be deprived of movies like the Little Mermaid and the others because you
    find it inappropriate for 2 year olds?

    You complain about the themes and story lines of Disney movies and how they
    “ruin” your children, and yet you continue to purchase or at least own,
    view, and participate in them and their merchandising. Furthermore, you
    will whine and complain about an animated movie that lasts just under an
    hour and a half, but dump your children every day into a school,
    allowing them to be indoctrinated with whatever some faceless government deems good enough for your child. Does this make sense? It sounds to me like you are looking for someone to blame for your lack of parenting.

    If you are going to allow your child to watch these movies, at the very least, you should be thanking Disney for providing you with enough material to be able to talk to your child about the morals and values in them. After all, aren’t parents like you always complaining they don’t know how to talk to their kids?

    For the record. I love Disney, and have all my life, one of my favorite people is Walt Disney, but this is not a statement in defense or support of Disney. My parents were not harsh, but they did take a very active role in all my activities, especially as a young, impressionable child (a phase that does not end after the toddler years, I warn you). You don’t have to let your children watch movies to keep them from being
    outcasts. You do as you believe, but you DO, and you potentiate your control. My parents chose homeschooling for me since 4th grade. I am 36,
    well adjusted, socially normal, and I have a doctorate degree in
    Education.

    I echo Aria. The fault is yours. You are the parent. Act it.

  • Ash

    Sorry but…seriously? I feel bad for your kids to be honest…The truth is, when you try to hard to keep your children sheltered, it ends up having an opposite and negative affect on them. Those type of kids typically (typically, I didn’t say always) end up rebelling in their teen years or end up being very socially awkward. The fact is: one day your kid(s) WILL be exposed to pretty much EVERYTHING eventually, often times a lot sooner than you would imagine. That is unless you plan on trapping them in your house their whole lives.

    I know it’s crazy to think about Ariel getting married at 16, but think about it: Once someone is actually 16 years old, they are old enough to know that it obviously isn’t normal to get married at 16, they aren’t going to think back and say “Oh, Ariel got married at 16, I’m going to too!” so having watched TLM as a kid isn’t having a negative impact on anybody, it can only make a positive impact by teaching life lessons, as with all Disney movies. It’s completely fine to be mindful of what your kids watch on TV, but to analyze TLM so deeply, and to make such a big deal about a Disney movie? It’s overkill to me.

    Every Disney movie is completely harmless for people of all ages to watch, and they bring nothing but truly happy and positive experiences, and I honestly and fully believe that when you refuse to allow your child to watch these great, innocent movies, that you are actually robbing them of joyful childhood memories that can last a lifetime.

  • Kate

    It’s a fucking Disney movie. Calm the hell down.
    And if your two year daughter is going to act like that, be a better parent and say that behavior isn’t acceptable

  • kelbythedreamer

    It helps develop children’s imagination. It gives them something to believe in. I was the same way when I was little, as I’m told by my parents, but when you get older you LEARN that life isn’t the same as life in a disney movie. They’re fiction. There’s no problem with letting children believe and watch the films. I respect your perspective, but I highly disagree with you.