Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Little Mermaid and the Bible

My sisters and I have talked a lot about the messages presented in The Little Mermaid. How she's willing to go sell her soul to marry a guy she just met and, in the end, gets rewarded for bad behavior. The other night, when I was doing dishes and listening to Disney music, a song from The Little Mermaid came on. And it set me thinking about the messages presented in it. Suddenly I remembered my first impressions of the movie, and they hadn't been at all what my sisters and I always talked about.
Courtesy of the Disney Vault, my sisters and I only watched a few Disney movies growing up. The Little Mermaid was not one of them. On one of our trips to Disney World as a family, my oldest sister bought The Little Mermaid as a souvenir. We watched it for the first time soon after.

I filter everything I watch through my worldview. I always have, and I did it with The Little Mermaid that day. I knew Ariel disobeying her father was wrong, even if he was being too strict in telling her not to go to the surface. I knew going to Ursula for help in catching Eric was wrong as well. I knew Ariel was making bad decisions, and as I watched, I was not surprised at the bad consequences she got (turning back into a mermaid, almost losing herself and her father to the sea witch) and I was fully aware that she deserved it. It stunk for Eric, who was getting the rotten end of the deal. I liked Ariel and felt for her, but knew that during the climax, she was getting exactly what she deserved.

Then after Ursula was defeated, Ariel was lying on a rock pining after Eric. Her father watched her, and, taking pity on her, he used his power to turn her into a human so she could be with the man she loved. In later years, my sisters and I have said she was getting rewarded for her bad behavior. But that's not how I saw it when I watched the movie for the very first time. I saw it as an act of grace.

I knew Ariel had done wrong. She had almost become a slave for the rest of her life, and only her father's and Eric's love for her saved her from that. Her father was willing to give his life for her and suffer eternally for his wayward, disobedient daughter. And after great tragedy was averted and the enemy vanquished, her father loved her so much, that, even when he had a right to keep her under lock and key and demand she fulfill the role at the palace she had constantly abandoned, even after suffering much of the punishment she should have borne, he still loved her enough to give her the greatest desire of her heart. Triton showed mercy on her and let her have a chance at a life with Eric, even though she did not deserve it, because he loved her that much.

When I first watched The Little Mermaid, that was the message I drew from it. I knew this movie was done by a secular company, but all I saw in it that first time was a heavy Bible message. The writers probably did not intend for it to be there, but truth has a way of working itself into everything. For a while, I forgot the powerful message of love and grace I had found in The Little Mermaid. It took me many years to remember. But, whether or not the Disney animators intended for it to be there, the message I drew from The Little Mermaid really touched my heart the first time I saw it. It just took Peter Hollens' version of "Kiss the Girl" for me to be reminded of that.

(Note that I still have issues with the magic and the shallow romance in the movie. But those are tales for another day.)


  1. Loved this post! I like your persceptive on The Little Mermaid. It's true; Triton turning Ariel human in the end was an act of grace. She didn't deserve it, but well, we don't deserve grace either!