There you see her
Sitting there across the way
She don't got a lot to say
But there's something about her
And you don't know why
But you're dying to try
You wanna kiss the girl
Yes, you want her
Look at her, you know you do
Possible she wants you too
There is one way to ask her
It don't take a word
Not a single word
Go on and kiss the girlKiss the Girl, by Sebastian the crab,
in The Little Mermaid (1989)
Play this song after you have read this post.
The original story of The Little Mermaid, as imagined and told by Mr. Hans Christian Andersen, was a sombre tale of love – and the lengths someone would go in its name. There was no ‘happily ever after’ ending in it. There was a little mermaid who forsook her family under the surface of the sea. There was a little mermaid who traded a world she grew in and knew all her life to live on land. There was a little mermaid who gave up her beautiful voice in exchange for a pair of legs from the sea-witch and was cursed in turn with the pain of a thousand knives on the soft soles of her feet with every step she took – all to win the love of a human prince she rescued from drowning. Yet in spite of all that she gave him and gave up for him, he wedded another woman, and the little mermaid threw herself back into the sea with a broken heart and dissipated into foam.
That’s the lesson of this tale. No matter how truly, wholeheartedly, painfully you love someone; you can never be sure that that someone would love you back. As a child, this story distressed me in ways I did not understand. Now that I am all grown up, it affects my every judgement and action in giving love to another.
It taught me to give everything and expect nothing in return.
Not many people today know this version of The Little Mermaid. The popular perception of that fabled and most beloved of mermaids is one who has a head of voluminous red hair, wears a seashell bikini top, and is named Ariel.
Yes, I was referring to Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Ariel did not really care for her life under the sea. Ariel did not feel a thousand knife-points stabbing into her feet with every step she took. Ariel did not lose out to a neighbouring princess in her bid for Prince Eric. And most of all, Ariel did not die without a trace, turning into sea-foam and forgotten even by the man she loved with all her heart and life.
I resented Disney’s technicolor, happy-ending insult to Hans Christian Andersen when I first watched it ten years ago. I hated it because it said; "If you love a person hard enough, that person would love you back."
I hated it because that isn’t true.
Last Saturday, I re-watched The Little Mermaid. As a kid, I never really enjoyed any of Disney's feature films because I found them to be both fallacious and forgettable. They are nothing but a mish-mash collage of funny animal sidekicks, catchy sing-alongs and endings as diabetically sugarcoated as only Disney can manufacture - superficial with as much depth as a shower. I thought I had it all figured out.
We can all agree that I was a pretty creepy kid back then.
This time around, I found myself rooting for Ariel. I felt sorry for her when her father destroyed everything she held dear and forbade her from having everything she wanted most. I felt indignant on her behalf when Ursula tricked her, and understood why she would sacrifice so much for a person she hardly knew but loved all the same. The most powerful scene in this film was the one Ariel and Prince Eric spent on the rowboat with Sebastian's "Kiss the Girl" calypso song setting the mood and they are about to kiss - only to have it all ruined by Flotsam and Jetsam when they capsized the boat. I felt angry for her for that moment missed. And at the end of it all, I can't help but be glad for Ariel when she married Eric, because she simply couldn't wish for anything better than that.
Yes, now we can all agree that I am a pretty creepy 21-year-old dude.
But you'll understand what I mean if you have ever been truly in love before. The true genius and charm of Disney Pictures lies in their sincere and singular intent in not telling us what really happened - but to show us what we all secretly want to see.
I realise now that Disney's The Little Mermaid wasn't saying "If you love a person hard enough, that person would love you back."
It was simply saying, "Happy endings can happen."
Not giving up childhood without a fight,
k0k s3n w4i