Bad advice we get from Disney princesses — including the new Ariel

Ashley Herzog
6 min readSep 20, 2022

Disney princesses and feminist values don’t mix.

Photo by Capricorn song on Unsplash

Last week, I wrote about how the “black Little Mermaid” controversy ignores the fact that the storyline is the problem. This is true no matter who plays Ariel in the upcoming live action movie. In fact, I believe Disney made the decision to cast a “black Ariel” to make feminist moms feel better about taking their daughters to see it.

So Disney’s marketing team did the only thing they could do: they decided Ariel would be black. They would then wait for the inevitable backlash from Twitter morons lamenting about “political correctness,” ginning up and promoting the backlash as a selling point. Millennial mothers could now indulge their nostalgia for regressive Disney storylines while signaling their “anti-racist” bona fides. In other words, they could take their daughters to see this deeply anti-feminist movie while patting themselves on the back for “not seeing color” and embracing a cocoa-hued Ariel with supermodel features and a thin, idealized figure.

The bottom line: Millennials can’t be strident feminists while also pining for the deeply anti-feminist storylines of their childhood. (I was born in 1985 and have a 10-year-old daughter, so all of this applies to me, too.) After all, what did older generations of girls learn from Disney movies long before the controversy over a “black Ariel”?

Let’s recap. For the sake of brevity, I’ll only include the Disney movies that came out during my own childhood.

The Little Mermaid: In 1989, Disney taught us that it was worth sacrificing our own homes and our own families in order to chase after a guy who barely knows or cares that we exist. The key element of the story is that Ariel is willing to sacrifice her “voice.” We can take “voice” literally — in the movie, it means her singing voice — or we can see it metaphorically, as “Ariel’s voice” encompassing Ariel’s thoughts, feelings, opinions, musings, complaints — all those things a thinking, independent person has. Apparently, Prince Eric is into chicks who have no voice. There is one exception: he likes Ariel’s voice when she’s singing to him. In fact, he will swoon over a woman who only using her voice to soothe and entertain him, which is why he dumps Ariel at the…

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Ashley Herzog

New account. I’m still a professional journalist, novelist, and radio host. And Catherine’s mom.