If I may be allowed a quick rant: I once ran across a meme that gave alternate titles to Disney movie, such as “Beauty and the Beast” being called “Stockholm Syndrome.” While funny, it’s not particularly true, and the one they gave “The Little Mermaid”, my favorite Disney movie, just irritated me: “Change for your man.”
What annoys me is that Ariel in no way changed for Eric’s sake, and for those who don’t believe me, please allow me the following paragraphs to try and change your mind.
First, the movie clearly shows from the start that Ariel is obsessed with “the human’s world.” She’s willing to explore dangerous sunken ships to get a hold of their stuff, and she’s willing to go to the surface (which her father expressly forbids) to have a seagull explain what everything is.
As the movie progresses, we see that Ariel has been plundering ships and the seabed for quite some time to learn more about humans, and she sings about how she wants to be part of that world someday.
Eric’s ship catches her interest thanks to the fireworks, and yes it’s love at first sight for Ariel, who changes the song from “Part of that world” to “Part of your world,” but following this declaration, she talks to Sebastian and Flounder about how she wants them to splash around Eric’s window to get his attention that night so they can meet again. At no point does she suggest she wants to become a human. At no point does she wonder if Eric will not like her being a mermaid.
When Flounder somehow (and who knows how??) gets the sunken statue of Eric into her hidden grotto, she flirts with the statue while in no way saying she wants to be a human.
The one who pushes Ariel to see Ursula, in fact, are her father and Ursula’s two minions. Her father came down way too hard on her upon finding her human stuff collection, sending her into a dark mental space that the two minions preyed on. Only her anger toward her father keeps her going as she follows the two eels to Ursula, and even then she’s scared to even go in. Ursula has to coax her into the room.
She hesitates before signing the contract with Ursula that transforms her into a human, but it’s Ursula who convinces her that “the only way to get what you want is to become a human, yourself.”
Of course Ariel is overjoyed to be a human since it means she can get extremely close to the world she’s always wanted to be a part of, but at the end when she transforms back into a mermaid, I don’t see any point where she seems upset she’s a mermaid again until after the big battle and she sees Eric on the shore. I think that’s when she finally realizes she can’t easily be with him unless she’s a human, too, and her father realizes she really does love the human’s world and has fallen for Eric, and so he grants her wish.
Thank you for coming to my lecture.