Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Little Mermaid Complex


If there is one song that I have sung more in my life than any other it would be "Part of your world" from The Little Mermaid. I have memories of sitting on the bus in 4 year old preschool and singing this tune at the top of my lungs with my BFF Abby. I remember singing it in my living room, imitating every waver of Ariel's voice with my little sister. I have sung this with my best friends in high school and in college. I even sang this with everything I had as I drove the church bus full of 13 year old girls singing it as loud as I was. This was a theme song of my youth.

No matter what the intended outcome this Disney classic was meant to have...it stuck with me. As a kid, I could not imagine anything more romantic than a girl leaving everything she knew to join the love of her life. A bit of a rebel myself, Ariel's actions made sense to me. Aren't you supposed to do anything in the name of love? Isn't it the only thing worth fighting for?

I grew into a teen that felt trapped by the small world that I knew. I always wanted more, longed for more and had a pretty good idea of what I was dreaming of. Even when I started liking boys I chose guys who didn't fit in the world that raised me. I made dating decision that I knew my dad wouldn't like and it just felt right. I was strangely satisfied by that rebellious attention. I felt exhilarated reaching further and further from the place that I called home, always humming this song in the back of my mind.

As my brain has fully developed and the sparkle of my Disney fascination has finally started to wane, I have realized what I learned from The Little Mermaid.

Here goes:

  • You should recklessly abandon everything for your emotions and you should feel a lot.
  • If you disobey your father he will eventually come around and do exactly what you want.
  • You can't find joy in the present moment because there is probably something better out there.
  • Living in fantasies is good.
  • Throwing yourself at the boy gets you the boy.
  • It's ok to marry someone you don't know if you feel like you love them.
Thanks, Ariel for the long list of painful life lessons.

I still love this story, the music and the familiar images from my childhood, but I will certainly think twice about letting my future daughter indulge my favorite Disney movie. I want to raise a child who is present to the blessings of the moment. A daughter who confidently spends time learning a boy's character before she throws herself at him, always aware of her strong sense of self-worth. I want to raise a girl who respects her father and knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has her best interests at heart before he has to sacrifice himself to save her from her own bad decisions.

If I had continued as my cartoon role model did, I'd be a piece of seaweed right about now. Fortunately, I held onto my voice. Once Ariel gave up her voice, she lost everything. That was one lesson that took me down a path that led to personal transformation. For this lesson, I'll say, "Thank you." For the rest, I'll still say, "Thank you." Ariel moved me out of my protected bubble of childhood support and I have learned so many valuable lessons because of it.

"The seaweed ain't always greener in somebody else's lake. You dream about going up there, honey, that is a big mistake. Just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things are around you. What more are you looking for?"
-Sabastian