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”?
My daughter is at an age where she is so easily influenced by things she hears and sees. This story is constantly running through her mind and her young obsession with princesses and marriage just sounds strange to me. A 2-year-old talking about marriage and imitating marriage? I’m just not into it. It doesn’t seem healthy and it kind of freaks me out.
Perhaps it’s because I personally don’t hold the belief that everyone should get married or that marriage is for everyone. Often times, though I am married myself, I wonder if marriage is even for me, or if it’s even a reasonable thing to do. Sometimes it seems an ancient tradition that our society perpetuates out of comfort and I don’t want my child to grow up with the idea that marriage is a necessity, or certainly that you need a “prince” to live “happily ever after.” Her learning about it at such a young age, seeing a movie where a woman (okay, mermaid) sees someone, literally changes herself to be with that person, just flat our rubs me the wrong way. Whether we like to think about it or not, it isn’t a positive message for a child.
While my daughter seemed to fall in love so hard and fast with the story and everything about it, it seems wrong to rip the mermaid from her life now, though I do try as hard as I can to limit this kind of play. But I pray Ariel will be phased out soon enough, if not for my own sanity and my husband’s than for the sake of my child’s imagination. Thank God she goes to a school where no media in any form is allowed because it makes for tons of Ariel-free adventures to be had from 8:30-11, Monday-Wednesday.
I just want my child to have room for plenty of other things in her life that don’t involve being totally immersed in a story about a princess who sets a piss-poor example for little girls everywhere. I wanted to remain blissfully unaware of this princess obsession I kept hearing about but I can only blame myself that it reared its ugly head in my household. Clearly, in this day and age, there are far better role models for little girls.
I just wasn’t thinking this princess thing would hit as hard as it did. I wasn’t thinking about what this movie was teaching my child when I blindly popped it in the old school VCR and hit play. It didn’t occur to me that not only the VCR was old school, but that The Little Mermaid was, too.