On Saturday, Kiddo#2 asked if we could have a “movie night,” which is one of our family traditions: I make pizzas and we eat in front of the TV on a picnic blanket and watch a movie. We chose “The Little Mermaid,” something I’d seen but the kids and my Patient Husband had never watched.
Thanks to an MA in English and 120 episodes of MST3K, I can’t view a movie without overthinking it. This would be the third time I’d viewed it, so I was able to get the nuances without having to watch for plot. And my first thought was–when the sisters sing at the beginning, and Ariel simply isn’t there for her grand entrance… They knew it.
They set her up for that. If you have ever been involved in any kind of musical production, there’s always some kind of staging area beforehand, and you’re there to warm up, get in costume, run through last-minute instructions, and so on. Sebastian would have been triple-checking everything (given how important he says this was to him) and the sisters would have noticed Ariel was not there.
My opinion: they were tired of her flaking off rehearsals, and when she failed to show up, they decided to make Ariel’s absences into Ariel’s problem and really show her up. Once she failed to appear for a performance, her father would get involved, and they figured he’d rake her over the coals. It’s a little exercise in allowing someone to experience the consequences of her own actions.
My second observation is a little less “overthinking” and more from the gut. When I first saw the film, I was 18, and I related to Ariel’s dilemma. Watching it now, I’m a parent, and I see her more as a bratty, headstrong kid who rushes into something her parents realize isn’t in her best interests. This is the same film–but I’m different.
What parent wouldn’t have reacted badly to the idea that after looking at a guy for about five minutes, her daughter had “fallen in love” with someone potentially dangerous? “Mom, I know he’s a drug dealer, but you have to see him! He’s so good-looking and I love him!” Said after the daughter has been confronted in a secret room full of drug paraphernalia she’s collected whenever she found it on the streets because she finds it fascinating. Yeah, I’d flip out too.
Her father’s over-reaction in destroying everything, plus the fact that Ariel has no self-discipline, tells me that he never consistently disciplined his daughter. His reaction when Sebastian says she needs guidance is to say Sebastian should guide her, not to take her under his wing himself. She looks much younger than her sisters, so we assume she’s spoiled a bit and not groomed for life in the public eye. She wants what she wants. Forbidden fruit is all the sweeter to her. There is no indication in the film that this changes, even after she sees her father pay the price for her impulsivity.
Her father trades his life for hers at the end. I’m deliberately reading too much into it when I say that’s exactly what Jesus did for us, but maybe it’s not too far a stretch. Ariel deserved the consequences of her actions, and so do we. But her father couldn’t stand to lose her forever, so he offered to die for her. The parallels end there, though. It just shows that all of us long for someone to come in and save us when we don’t deserve it. We hunger for mercy.
Of course, now I have the big show-numbers running through my head again (as I did all day yesterday). So pardon me if I walk off humming instead of continuing to overanalyze.