For Our Consideration: The Little Mermaid TV show let Ariel live up to her potential

I’m guessing many women who grew up in the early ’90s have a complicated relationship with The Little Mermaid. Ariel is an impossibly appealing protagonist, the kind that makes you want to spend hours in the pool practicing your perfect emerging-to-the-surface hair flip. But even from a young age it’s easy to see that she’s stuck in a rather regressive story. Ariel transforms herself into a mute human to woo a man she just met. At one point she yells, “I’m 16 years old. I’m not a child anymore!” and rather than treat that exclamation as an ironic one, the film ends with her marrying a guy she’s known for three days. In other words, she’s the perfect encapsulation of the “Disney princess problem.” As a character, Ariel’s inquisitive, spirited, and independent. But the narrative surrounding her is all kinds of troubling …

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