From the start Disney’s live action remake of The Little Mermaid has been riddled with controversy. After the initial release of promotional material, the film was called out for its dull aesthetics. In more recent days, it’s again under fire after the news that the original songs are getting edits. This wasn’t something initially I gave much thought to but after mentioning it yesterday in our Pop Culture roundup, I decided it did deserve some time. You see, I’m wondering why remakes mess with nostalgia. In this example, The Little Mermaid rewrites nostalgia in a kind of bizarre way that doesn’t seem purely for “consideration.”🦀👑🧜🏻♀️THE CONTROVERSY OF ‘THE LITTLE MERMAID’: CHANGING NOSTALGIA 🧜🏻♀️👑🦀 TALKING ABOUT #THELITTLEMERMAID AND ITS CHANGES. #DISNEY Click To Tweet
Articles are popping up across multiple online publications saying The Little Mermaid, the film taking the story to live action status, is changing lyrics in at least two original songs. One of them is ‘Kiss the Girl,’ and the second is ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls.’ Let’s look at what the rumored changes are and some of the reasons for the changes, according to quotes and speculation.
We all probably remember ‘Kiss the Girl,’ the sweet moment and fun scene where Ariel nearly realizes a dream. Headed up by Sebastian, the scene is Ariel and Prince Eric in a boat, surrounded by magical things as Ariel is about to receive perhaps her first kiss. In the scene, there is no implication that she is uncomfortable or ill at ease, and yet the lyrics are, reportedly changing to include consent since the character cannot, at this time, speak.
Here’s probably one thing people will use to justify this…
NAIVE (AND VOICELESS, OBVIOUSLY)
No doubt some will argue, if anyone presents an unnecessary change argument that Ariel is, presumably, naïve in this scenario. Could be true. The implication being that Eric is forcing himself on Ariel. Here’s the thing, I don’t think anyone is saying Eric doing something Ariel is uncomfortable with is in any way acceptable. However, who among us thought that was a scenario or true from the original Disney animated feature. the little mermaid rewrites nostalgia
I certainly didn’t. Now it seems like it’s an “issue.” But is it, or is it really only a part of the conversation now because the creators are telling us it’s a problem? According to Alan Menken, the composer, people are sensitive about this, saying, in part to Vanity Fair:
“There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel].”
Again, I never once thought this. I think this is one of those “mountain out of a mustard seed” scenarios. We also understand long before Ariel is able to know Eric that he’s part of her dream and that they have a kind of “bond” before he even knows who she is.
Then we come to ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ which I think is universally understood as being a manipulative element. All while being promoted by someone who is, quite literally evil. Evil doesn’t promote equal expectations. This is why this song comes from the villainess. Nonetheless, apparently the line “The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber, they think a girl who gossips is a bore, yet on land, it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word” troubles modern composers. The rumor is that the lines will be changed so as not to imply women don’t have a voice. Menken saying, in part, “We have some revisions in ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.” the little mermaid rewrites nostalgia
Um, yes. Your final thought is right. Ursula is using tactics to manipulate Ariel, and she’s clearly a villainess, at least in this story. SHE DOESN’T WANT ARIEL TO SUCCEED. She’s not a cool or good character, certainly not one we are interested in learning from. She’s not out to protect Ariel or help her stand up for herself.
When it comes down to it, I think these changes seem unnecessary.
Part of the excitement for these is nostalgia. We loved the original songs. We loved the moments that led to the songs. The swoony silliness, the romance. All of these pieces that form to make up these stories.
I think honestly filmmakers are overthinking far too much.
We also have to remember, something like The Little Mermaid is pure fantasy. It’s a story about a girl living in the sea, who grows legs and falls in love with a prince. It’s a fairy tale. Fairy tales generally aren’t something we can fashion our lives after so when we sit through one, much like Ariel’s dream, it’s all about the idea of something different than our world. Usually, they present us with a good vs. evil scenario and one has to start to wonder if we still have this distinction.
Outside of Disney’s Cinderella with Lily James, which strikes the right balance between nostalgia and giving its own spin on the story, Disney seems to be missing the mark on most of these remakes. I can respect a creator wanting to add their own signature. However, in doing so, they’re creating problems where I really don’t think there are.
You have to understand the majority of your audience is anticipating all of the hallmarks that make The Little Mermaid a classic. The music, the romance, the adventure, the sidekicks, a sassy heroine and yes, even a sweet first kiss.
At this point, this remake is rapidly becoming something we can only anticipate because of a star-studded cast. I wanted to anticipate it for all of the things that make The Little Mermaid, well, The Little Mermaid. Sadly, it’s becoming a polarizing and cultural talking point which takes some enchantment away.
Disney will release The Little Mermaid on May 28th.
What are your thoughts on small or drastic changes of this caliber to fan favorite films? Do you think this is something we need or some are overblown? Is this a kind of The Little Mermaid rewrites nostalgia problem? Does it seem like it’s mostly executives telling us what is problematic or do you think viewers feel this way? Comment all of your thoughts. Let’s chat.
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