Disney tends to destroy the stories they adopt, and this one was no exception. My curiosity in this was sparked by a fellow student who stated she had red the story – the original story – and it “tore her up.” I have considered the subject of love in modern movies, etc and believe that the characteristics involving love, in the deeper sense, have all been removed. There is only self-indulgence. Culturally speaking, how has this played out with abortion? Prior to that ability, a woman had to consider with whom she had sex, because the responsibility of care for the offspring was a consideration. There was a consequence to sex and families were the natural result of defining that activity in a positive way. I’m not saying all families are positive. Culturally speaking, having a family placed the activities of sex in appropriate bounds and the focus of family was to the group. Now that contraception and abortion are readily available, there is not the bound of family and need to focus on the group for one to try and satisfy their personal desires. Hence, the presentation of “love” has become personal gratification with no focus on the group – couple in this example. One rock song describes it as, “behind the shady trees, …. let me do as I please.” Is there a better description of using someone?
The Little Mermaid as Disney presented was a flighty, wanting to be big mermaid who sees a handsome prince, violates her father’s command and sees the sea witch to become human. No mention of pain there. Infatuation is noted. As the story progresses, the animals get into the act of trying to get the prince to love the quiet little mermaid. In proving that Disney has no clue about a king, they have her father give up his kingdom to try and save her only to have the prince fight the witch, stab her with the bow of the ship and the king gets his form and kingdom returned at which point he announces that the little mermaid really loves him and gives her legs. The actual story is a bit darker.
I have pulled a sumary and story of the Little Mermaid here and here. Note that though the beginning has some relation to the Disney story, from the meeting with the sea witch, the actual story takes on quite a different light. The mermaid doesn’t simply lose her voice, she has her tongue cut out. Next, she is promised that every step would be as if walking on broken glass. The goal of this has a couple of components: she has to win the love of her obsession, and in doing so, she gets a soul and can go to heaven. There is a component of self interest introduced into the youthful desire for her obsession. In a wider sense, love isn’t simply self-focused or only other-focused. There are components of both. The story I linked expresses it as: “while she dreamed of human happiness and an immortal soul.” Can anyone find that quality in Disney? The conflict with the love of the mermaid for the prince is brought to a head when the prince marries the princess from the other country. At this point, all the sacrifice she has made has an end point. When offered the opportunity of placing her interests above the interests of the one she loved, she chose his interests. There is a surprise ending where the mermaid is given another chance at the soul desired and rises as a spirit in the wind. Taken in the practical sense, self interest can be met, but it requires long sacrifice, and as the story presents, there is still caring for others required for that self-interest. Note that the self-interest probation period is relative to the behavior of others.
Of course, the wind spirits and mermaids are all fanciful creations, but I wanted to utilize them to point out the change in media culture – from a complex interrelated acknowledgement of love, interaction, choice and loss, to a self-obsessed shallow false presentation of love and authority. How much sacrifice is one going to spend for love? For Disney, not much. For the original story, everything. In real life, there is real sacrifice for love.