Is Love More Powerful Than Evil?

Disney's Princess Ariel and Prince Eric

            The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “fairy tale” as,              

a. A tale about fairies. Also gen., fairy legend, faerie.          

b. An unreal or incredible story.         

c. A falsehood. Also attrib. Hence fairy-tale-ish (“OED”).         

     I think this definition of a “fairy tale” can be applied to numerous Disney films. The second definition struck me the most because many Disney movies fall into this category of an “unreal or incredible story” (“OED”). As many Disney films have a similar story line, the plot usually is extremely unrealistic. A good example of this is the 1989 (“ImDb”) film The Little Mermaid. This film presents a young female mermaid who sells her voice to an evil sea witch to win the love of a human prince. It can be considered a fairy tale because of the “unreal” characteristics that it entails.      

     This is a clip from the film of Ariel singing “Part of Your World” showing how she wants to belong to the human world.      


     The film version of The Little Mermaid is an adaption of Hans Christian Andersen’s of the same title. Andersen’s version is a fairy tale as it presents the similar story of a young mermaid who falls in love with a human. In addition, Andersen’s is more dark and violent but more importantly, does not reach the same conclusion as the Disney film. The ending of the story is sad and how the little mermaid did not get what she wanted, “Again she looked at the prince; her eyes were already glazed in death. She threw herself into the sea and felt her body changing into foam. The sun rose out of the sea, its rays felt warm and soft on the deathly cold foam” (Andersen 237). Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid is similar to Andersen’s as it uses the same fairy tale type story. The film version is more idealistic and happy and Ariel gets what she always wanted. It is important to compare these two versions because Disney has dramatically changed the story into a modern reworking of Andersen’s but more importantly, created a story that is perfect. Ariel and all the supporting characters work together to make sure that the prince falls in love with her. As a result, Ariel receives her happy ending.      

     In addition, in an article by Laure Sells titled, ““Where do Mermaids Stand?” Voice and Body in The Little Mermaid”, she discusses the film version and the cultural implications surrounding the characters in the movie. She argues that, “Undoubtedly, feminists have criticized The Little Mermaid’s Ariel because she seems to have little ambition beyond getting her prince… The message of The Little Mermaid is more insidious and also more liberatory” (Sells 176). Like Andersen’s version Ariel goes on a mission to the sea witch to get a pair of legs. In both versions, Ariel is independent and follows her own voice and does not listen to the people around her. This can be seen as a form of liberation because Ariel does not conform to the norms that are set out for her by her community but also family. As Sells states that Ariel has little ambition except for marrying the prince (176) I believe that the Disney version provides the audience with a stubborn and powerful female figure. Ariel is determined as she works to towards her own goal. She is powerful in the way she is in independent in making her dreams come true. The Little Mermaid is also dangerous in the ways in which Ariel goes against her father’s wishes and does what ever she wants. However, I think that the character that Disney created is significant because she does not wait for the prince to find her but accomplishes her own wishes.   

     Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid, I believe gives individuals unrealistic expectations about love because the story draws in people’s attention and I think you want to see Ariel and Prince Eric succeed and live happily ever after. As the story is extremely hard for an older audience to believe the movie has a huge older and younger fan base. This film is further a good example of how people receive unrealistic expectations from Disney because it presents two characters that are destined to be together. Ariel and Prince Eric are completely different people who do not belong in each other’s worlds but their love is stronger than magic and/or evil. I think that people and especially women fall more in love with the story and forget about reality. I believe that Ariel and Prince Eric are figures that people look up to and how they would like to meet their own prince or princess.     

     This is another clip from the movie and how Ariel and Prince Eric received their fairy tale ending.      



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