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Ariel to Have “More Power” in Live-Action Little Mermaid, Whatever That Means

The Little Mermaid (1989)

The live-action reboot of Mulan is on the horizon, but there are still Disney Reinassance films for the Mouse to milk dry, and next up on the roster is The Little Mermaid. The film that started the Disney Reinassance has surprisingly not been transformed into a live-action adaptation yet, but with the casting of grown-ish star Halle Bailey in the lead, we know it’s coming, and they’re already looking at ways to “girl-boss” up Ariel.

As CBR reports, during a quick interview with Variety, Daveed Diggs, who’s Sebastian in the new film, gave a little bit of a teaser about how Ariel will be transformed into a more “powerful” character:

“It’s different. It’s great. Some of the updates they have done to the story are really important in terms of giving some more power back to Ariel,” he said. “It’s fun to work on something that is so intentional in the idea that, if we are going to make this now — if we are not going to leave this alone as a time capsule — let’s make it for now.”

Hmm. This makes me a little bit nervous. Disney has been trying to “update” their films to try to account for every single TV Tropes YMMV and Headscratcher entry they can, in order to prove that they have moved with the times and can somehow be capitalists and woke. Well … it doesn’t exactly always work out the way they think.

One of the complex things about the Disney princesses and treating them as avatars for feminist discourse is that, while it is important to do so because of their influence on young women, the source material is inherently problematic or dated. Yes, people have been discussing if Ariel is feminist for making … choices, even when they are terrible, but how do you address the issues with Ariel and the story without just making a new story from the ground up?

Ariel’s issue was never that she needed power. For people who took issue with the character, it was that it seemed as if she was giving up an entire part of her identity for a man. If they give Ariel a big speech listing her reasons for wanting to be on the surface, that would be “addressing” the issue, but when Disney films are still overwhelmingly heterosexual and rarely have more than two women in important roles at the same time, I think it should bring some of that energy into new films.

Frozen 2, despite being a sequel, was a really great example of addressing things while also allowing the story to be a story. I don’t want another “Speechless” moment à la Aladdin 2019, or Belle building a laundry machine to “prove” she’s intelligent. If we’re going to do The Little Mermaid, just do it well and make it worth the journey. Mulan looks like it’s doing that, and I hope, considering that they are going to have a Black Ariel, they bring in some female writers who will make this more than just a nostalgic cash grab.

Unless they just make Ariel a sea witch. I endorse that.

(via CBR, image: Disney)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.