Women's Presence in Disney's The Little Mermaid

Women's Presence in Disney's The Little Mermaid

An Analysis of Character Portrayal

The women in Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid are almost nonexistent. In a cast dominated by male characters, the few women given more than a minute of screen time in the film tend to fall into roles that are stereotypical and one dimensional. At first glance, Ariel appears to be a self-actualized and independent individual. She has dreams that go against her father’s orders and she is unafraid to pursue them. However, upon looking closer Ariel holds a pseudo-feminism that is perhaps more toxic than displaying her as someone weak and independent. Ariel’s entire life is ruled by her relationship with men. As mentioned in “Eighty-Six the Mother”, by Lynda Haas, Ariel’s mother is totally absent from the novel- as if her place in the family dynamic is unnecessary. From the get go, the only women that Ariel has around her are her sisters who seem to obey her father’s every command and are not very nice to her.

King Triton, Ariel’s father is a very authoritative figure, expressing traits of strength and power that are associated with the construct of masculinity. Although he loves Ariel, he typically expresses a “tough-love” approach, showing a softer, more maternal side only once Ariel has left the scene. The very dream that he discourages Ariel from pursuing is her curiosity for humans and life on land. In this way, Ariel is discouraged from experiencing new things and challenging social norms that divide merpeople and humans. While it is good that Ariel wants to learn more about humans, she seems to be attracted to only the beauty of them. She believes that since they create beautiful objects, then humans must be good. This vain outlook casts her into a stereotype. Also the only reason that Ariel takes substantial steps to rebel against her father is because she falls in love with Eric. Without the possibility of being with this man, it is unclear if Ariel would have ever made her dreams into a reality.

In pursuit of meeting Eric again, Ariel turns to Ursula, perhaps the most stereotypical character that ever existed. Ursula is evil, ugly and power-hungry. Her masculine desire to overthrow King Triton is painted as malicious and bad. As the only woman in the story who could possibly be a mother-figure to Ariel, Ursula represents everything that Ariel is told not to be. Again referencing ideas addressed in “Eighty-Six the Mother”, Ursula’s place as a potential mother figure traps Ariel into a one-sided definition of how to be a proper woman. Although both women possess independence and a desire for a better life, Ursula’s is seen as evil because she is not beautiful and is seeking a kingdom, not a man. Ariel’s thirst for control is romanticized and seen as sweet because she is beautiful and her quest will result in her finding a man, getting married and hopefully achieving the ultimate goal of motherhood. Ursula basically tells Ariel that for a woman to be desirable she should be silent and physically attractive. She reduces a woman’s worth to her outer beauty and literally steals Ariel’s voice from her. Her bond with Ariel as women is one of trickery and jealousy. Instead of taking her anger out on King Triton directly, Ursula uses Ariel and her femininity to create destruction.

The representation of women in this film subconsciously affects the way that children, especially girls view their gender and the roles it creates for them in society. Girls are encouraged by Ariel to be adventurous without actually defying their fathers, unless of course there is a man at the end of the tunnel. The lack of a mother figure tells women that their place in the family is unnecessary, that a man can play both roles of father and mother. Finally, Ursula discourages young women from seeking power. Being ambitious is portrayed as only being manipulative and cruel, and her outer and inner ugliness eventually lead to her death. The movie teaches that for women, being beautiful is the only trait that can truly bring happiness that is found in the arms of a man.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.imgnaly.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Ursula-The-Sea-Witch.png

Popular Right Now

I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.

It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

11 Amazing TV Shows That Are Ending in 2019

All good things must come to an end.


It might just be the beginning of 2019 but there are many TV series wrapping up already. There are many breathtaking and original pilots around along with several reboots coming. This might be one of the greatest year for TV.

However, all good things must come to an end. Some series have been planned out and are going to be finished while others have been cut short. Sadly, here's a list of TV series to say goodbye to this year.

1. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Final Date: May

12 Seasons//279 episodes

2. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)


Final Date: End of 2019

7 seasons//91 episodes

3. Jane the Virgin (CW)


Final Date: Mid-late 2019

5 seasons//100 episodes

4. Games of Thrones (HBO)


Final Date: Summer

8 Seasons//73 episodes

5. Broad City (Comedy Central)

Comedy Central

Final Date: March

5 seasons//50 episodes



Final Date: Spring

7 seasons//67 episodes

7. Homeland (Showtime)


Final date: Summer

8 seasons//96 episodes

8. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

Final date: January 25

4 seasons//52 episodes

9. The Affair (Showtime)


Final Date: End of 2019

5 seasons//42 episodes

10. Friends From College (Netflix)

Final Date: End of 2019

2 seasons//16 episodes

11. Crashing (HBO)


Final Date: End of 2019

3 seasons//24 episodes

Related Content

Facebook Comments