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Two ‘Little Mermaid’ Songs Are Getting a Modern Makeover for the Live-Action Movie

Don't underestimate the importance of body language.

The Little Mermaid Ursula and Ariel

Disney has kept news about the highly anticipated The Little Mermaid remake tightly under wraps. Just a few weeks ago, they finally released a full trailer for the movie, and as the premier date inches closer and closer, tidbits of information are coming out. During a recent interview with Vanity Fair, composer Alan Menken discussed how they have revised lyrics to some of the songs from the original movie for the 2023 update.

Menken, along with Howard Ashman, wrote all the songs for the animated 1989 version of The Little Mermaid, a duo that changed the formula of how Disney films used music. Prior to Menken and Ashman, Disney only had songs in the movies for fun or decoration. Menken and Ashman took a Broadway approach and used music to add to the story and move the narrative. Now, Menken says they are changing some lyrics to two of the songs to fit our modern standards.

Kiss the girl (only with her consent)

For the new movie starring Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Menken said the older lyrics don’t fit as well for audiences. “There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel].” For those who don’t know the lyrics by heart, like some of us mermaid-obsessed fans, there is a section of the song that goes “It don’t take a word, Not a single word, Go on and kiss the girl.” We know that Ariel can’t speak until she experiences true love’s first kiss™, but the lyrics give a creepy vibe of ignoring her consent in the matter. She can still nod her head, Eric!

With the lyrical help of Disney’s newest golden boy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Menken worked on changing the lyrics a bit for “Kiss the Girl.” Along with that song, they will also update a portion of a song I still sing on a regular basis, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Menken said, “We have some revisions in ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.”

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face!

I’m pretty sure Menken is referring to this verse specifically:

The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yet on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle babble for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man

The lyrics come off as saying that girls should only use their looks to attract a man and not speak if they want any men to fall in love with them. For those in the know, it is just the sea witch telling her that dudes can be awful. If Ariel had only listened to the powerful, wise, and beautiful Ursula, she could have saved herself a lot of trouble. She spelled it out right there for the sheltered mermaid. A lot of men on land are toxic creeps (not like King Triton was being all that progressive either). However, this is a kids’ movie, and young girls shouldn’t ever think that is how they should act around men.

Menken didn’t elaborate on exactly how they changed the lyrics, though. This is something we will all have to hear for ourselves when the movie hits theaters on May 26.

(via Vanity Fair, featured image: Disney)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.