The Little Mermaid (1989) is constantly critiqued for being an anti-feminist Disney film. But should we see value in Ariel being awake unlike the previous female characters – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. We can’t deny the obvious, Ariel gave up her voice for Prince Eric. But again, the progression of female characterisation in Disney films has come a long way *cheering*

giphyThe Little Mermaid and Princess Mononoke were released eight years apart. Both films are very different, culturally and in terms of their female characters

Today, I’ll be watching The Little Mermaid and taking notes here rather than live tweeting. The main female characters I’ll be discussing are the following:

  • Ariel = Sea princess
    • [Ariel has a lot of sisters, which we’ll simply mention]

Men determine how Ariel feels throughout the movie. Her father King Triton puts his expectations on her, restricting what she does, she responds/sings “young women sick of swimmin’, ready to stand” during the ‘Part Of Your World’ scene.


Prince Eric is Ariel’s love interest, he is the reason she decides to leave the sea for the land. The second time they meet, Ariel is voiceless and is the typical damsel in distress. The ending shows Ariel with legs, married and away from her family. But is it her choice?

I’m the product of my own culture as I watch Ariel’s story wearing my feminist cap. By examining the film through this lens, I’m able to see the growth of Disney films – from Ariel to Mulan and now Elsa and Ana, the animations have evolved with society.

  • Ursula = King Triton’s rival, the villain

Ursula, she is the token villain with a flamboyant personality. Her scenes come with a certain darkness. She is jealous of Ariel’s beauty, age and status. She’s witch-like and lures Ariel into making the decision about losing her voice to become human. She sings, “It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man” in the song ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’.

Is Ursula a feminist? Ultimately, she’s independent and makes her own choices, even though they may not be morally acceptable…

  • Carlotta = Prince Eric’s maid

Carlotta isn’t present often during the movie. She is the caretaker for Prince Eric, his housemaid. Her scenes mainly involve her commenting on Eric and Ariel’s interactions. Carlotta’s life is based on how Eric lives.

The Little Mermaid shows these three female characters of different ages to be the same? Their lives are ruled by men – Ariel is desperate for love, Ursula is seeking revenge against King Triton and Carlotta’s job is to care for Prince Eric.

Next week I’ll be watching Princess Mononoke!


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