Tuesday, November 9, 2010

As "The Little Mermaid" plays for the hundredth time...

Prince Michael has this funny obsession with running into the kitchen, scrambling around noisily for a while, and then coming back to the living room brandishing a fork. Sometimes they are regular dinner-sized forks, sometimes they are baby forks and sometimes he manages to uphold one of those big, two-pronged forks that you use to check steaks on a grill... not sure why we even have those kinds of forks, as no one in our house grills out or eats steak... Anyway, tonight I realized that this obsession was born out of another obsession, one I like to call "The Never-Ending Little Mermaid." This Disney classic plays constantly at our house all hours of the day and night. As Ariel swims defiantly to the surface to show Scuttle her new treasures, he explains that the fork she found is actually a "Dinglehopper" that makes great hairdos. So Michael loves to go in search of - not merely a fork, but - the world's most fantastic Dinglehopper. Thank you, Disney. I hold you fully responsible if this kid pokes out an eye.

I have very mixed feelings about The Little Mermaid, and the more I watch it and hear it, the more mixed my feelings become.

On the one hand, I realize the themes of the movie actually encourage
1. Teenage rebellion against parents - but hey, it's because she's in love, right? She's sixteen years old, and she's attracted to a population that eats her friends!
2. Making stupid selfish and impulsive decisions - but hey, it's because of love, right? Never mind that she will completely cut herself off from her family and friends forever, never mind that she is making a deal with the enemy of her family...
3. Jumping right to kissing a guy as fast as you can - three days? Three days?! The poor guy is trying to be a decent gentleman and just find out her name, and she's frustrated because he hasn't kissed her yet!
Not good things for kids to grow up on! Parents, pay attention! Sheesh.

On the other hand, I can't ignore the obvious picture of the gospel and of reconciliation in the movie...
1. When Ursela captures Ariel in her own selfish choices (which was her plan to begin with), the result cannot be undone - it is a legal contract that condemns her forever. But Ariel's father knows there is one way to save his daughter - to take her place, to write his name over her own. I love that the whirlpool thing is sucking Ariel down when he makes this move, and it instantly takes him down instead. Isn't that what Jesus did for us?
2. Ariel tried to find joy and love her own way and made a royal mess that almost took her life. But when it was all over and her father took her place in punishment and then was restored to his power, he was the one who was able to give her what she was looking for in a far better way. We are all looking for love and joy, and it can only be found in knowing Jesus.
3. There are undertones of racial prejudices  and stereotypes that lead to divisions and hatred - the merpeople versus human world thing is more than it appears. So Ariel could be considered a hero in that she broke through the stereotypes, reached out to love someone who was different from herself, and in the end brought reconciliation to the two groups (as is evident in King Triton and Eric bowing honorably to one another at the wedding).

Wow, that explanation was long... Obviously I have spent too much time with Ariel, Flounder, and Sabastian lately. But at least I have the comic relief of watching Michael play with his Dinglehopper and hearing Lian in the kitchen in the mornings singing "Under the Sea" with a great Burmese-Jamaican accent!

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