Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Disney's The Little Mermaid and Gay Allegory

There's a moment in Disney's The Little Mermaid when Ariel is in her secret treasure grotto and she's dancing with a statue of Prince Eric. Uknown to her, her father is nearby watching her, disgusted at the display. When Ariel notices her father, she reacts with shame, and then meekly defends the world she wants to be a part of and the man she admires. The scene turns ugly once her father, the great King Triton, uses his magnificent powers to turn her secret grotto into a pile of rubble, ending with the complete destruction of the statue of Prince Eric, and the spirit of his daughter.

This scene always made me cry as a child. I'll always remember it, mostly because it happend in my 3rd grade class. We were watching The Little Mermaid since it came out on awesome VHS a few days ago, and this scene just made me tear up like crazy. Pointing and teasing followed as well as the nickname "Cry Baby" for the rest of my stay in elementary school. The taunting of my fellow schoolmates didn't break my spirit though, like Ariel's in her rubble-ized grotto, but it gave me strength.

I wanted to understand that scene and why it affected me the way it did. It wasn't until years later at the age of 17 that I found out the meaning of the scene. My parents entered my room, and told me they needed to talk to me. They wanted to confront me about the "gay thing." I felt ashamed and dirty, but most importantly, lost and alone. I never really had a close relationship with my father and my mother had already proven she had a closed minded view of homosexuality when she kept making the claims that gay people aren't real, just characters on Will and Grace. They made me delete everything gay from my computer, from my bedroom, from my life.

Of course I can't change who I am, and what my heart wants, so I sought out the Sea Witch Ursula...

I'm just kidding. I did though plunge head first into San Diego's gay scene, lost my sense of identity - or my voice - and only regained my sense of identity back again - or my voice - once things with my parents got better. Not perfect but better.

Parents of those who come out should really spend some time watching Disney's The Little Mermaid. It's an illustration of what happens when parents don't accept their offspring for who they are.

In the end of The Little Mermaid, Ariel is given legs by her father. Unlike Ursula - who bargained with her for her voice and left her naked without a voice on a beach confused - King Triton's gift left Ariel with her voice, her sense of identity, and clothed in the love of her family with the strength to make it in the strange new world on her own.

I know, she meets a Prince and marries him, but it is a fairy tale after all. It's all about symbols.

If parents could just sit and talk "with" their children, as opposed to "down on" them, our gay youth could be sent out into the world with their own voices, their own legs to walk on and the strength to take on all the hate, ignorance and whatever else can be thrown at them.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy these links

Feminist Fairy Tales - a collection of fairy tales retold with a feminist point of view. My favorite is Snow Night, the author's take on the Snow White story. Also included is a very different version of The Little Mermaid.

Another Gay Sequel- Uncut Theatrical Version - Features the adorable Brent Corrigan as a gay Merman

Tiana and Charlotte - Princess Evolution  - A look into the friendship between two of the stars of Disney's The Princess and the Frog.

The Princess and the Frog - Almost There? - A review on the movie, by yours truly, as well as commentary on the media hype this movie brought with it.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story. :)

  2. Not only that, but The Little Mermaid itself is a gay story. The author, Hans Christian Andersen, wrote it in 1837 when he heard that his friend Edvard Collin was engaged. He had long loved Edvard, but Edvard was not feeling it. Hans used the metaphor of the mermaid to symbolize a love that was doomed to failure. For just as a mermaid could not love a human, he could not find love with another man. (Remember, this WAS the 1800s, so people would NOT have liked their relationship.


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