Hollywood is awash with live-action news — most recently that Disney is giving its 2016 flick “Moana” a remake way too soon. Adults who grew up on the OG princess flicks, however, are still a little miffed at a different live-action announcement about the forthcoming redo of “The Little Mermaid” — and no, it has nothing to do with the skin color of the seashell-clad leading lady.
In a Vanity Fair interview last week, composer Alan Menken, who helped write the songs and score for the animated 1989 film and is now working on some new songs with Lin-Manuel Miranda for the remake, revealed the new “Little Mermaid” will feature not just new songs — but changes to the classics.
Unsurprisingly, one of these tracks is “Kiss the Girl,” lambasted by the same types of scolds who can’t abide “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The song explicitly sets the mood for the beloved boat-ride scene that teases a lip lock between the protagonists but tragically doesn’t deliver when the pair is capsized by some evil eels. The other is “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” the ominous tune sea witch Ursula belts out as she successfully lures mermaid Ariel into a bad deal.
Poor, Unfortunate Scolds
These songs are problematic, say modern sensibilities and thus Disney. “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” for instance, includes, according to Menken, “lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn.” In it, the sea villain sings:
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?
Of course, the context of this little ditty is a witch trying to con an unsuspecting, lovestruck teen into giving up her voice — so yeah, of course she’s going to claim female silence is men’s preference. Even the composer, insistent on modifying the song, admits he’s changing it “even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.” Iconoclasts never did care much about the “clear” meaning and intent of things.
But frankly, Ursula ploy aside, women today, more than ever, could use a good reminder that “spilling the tea” and blabbering mindlessly are pretty undesirable traits. Just look around. From the halls of Congress, to white, Lululemon-clad BLM protesters getting in the faces of police, to keyboard SJWs and habitual TikTokkers, millennial and Gen Z women — and men — could stand to cut the gossip and idle babble. How does the saying go? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”?
Bottom line: A song urging a wayward teen to maybe shut up a little is the least of our 21st-century problems.
“Kiss the Girl” won’t escape unscathed either because Disney apparently needs to clarify that Prince Eric would never “in any way, force himself” on Ariel.
With Ariel’s closest sea friends doing everything in their power to nudge the prince to lean in for the kiss, is it really unclear to the viewer that this isn’t a date-rape situation? Did the songwriter really forget that the whole point of Ariel being on land for three days is to get this one particular man to make out with her? At one point at the beginning of the original scene, Ariel herself puckers up while Eric chickens out — making it really difficult to discern whether the prince is, in some way, trying to “force himself” on the lady…
This ignores the fact that the whole plot depends on Eric kissing the girl to literally save her life from the demonic octopus-drag queen hybrid that preys on a minor and manipulates her into destroying her voice and carving up her bottom half. (Huh, maybe there’s a culturally relevant message for Hollywood here, after all.)
It also ignores the obvious plot point that Ariel cannot speak. How is she supposed to “verbally consent” when she can’t even tell the prince her name? Even “The View” shrews understood this basic concept.
In deconstructing this beloved song, Disney managed to reveal some of the most glaring issues of the #MeToo era and modern dating culture: When sex is everywhere, intrigue is nowhere. Nothing kills the mood more than instructing young men and women that what’s really sexy is discarding emotional attachment and commitment for robotically asking “Can I touch you?” and waiting for awkward verbal affirmation. Woof.
Bring Back ‘Kiss The Girl’ Energy
What we could really use around here is more “Kiss the Girl” energy, not less. Just revisit the romantic lyrics of the original:
There you see her
Sitting there across the way
She don’t got a lot to say
But there’s something about her
And you don’t know why
But you’re dying to try
You wanna kiss the girl
My oh my
Look like the boy too shy
Ain’t gonna kiss the girl
Ain’t that sad?
Ain’t it a shame?
Too bad, he gonna miss the girl
It’s been a while, but Americans used to value women’s unique alluring beauty and feminine mystique, just like they used to appreciate self-assured men in their noble pursuit of them. Then came along radical feminism and so-called sexual liberation like a bulldozer. It androgynized women, neutered men, and turned sex into a transaction with consent as the only obligation.
It’s no wonder at least 2 in 3 daters say their romantic lives are not going well, and 75 percent say it’s been difficult to find someone to date. Only half of singles are even looking for any sort of fling, much less a serious relationship. Maybe that’s because a large majority of men say they don’t even know how to interact with women in the #MeToo era, and even a plurality of women say the same. Welcome to an age of deferred marriage and a millennial generation that refuses to grow up.
“The Little Mermaid” shows a better way. Call it love craze or self-sacrifice, but both the male and female protagonists do something to save the other’s life. Though they might not “know why,” they see something in the other person that captures their interest and drives them to put themselves out there in ways they otherwise might not. There’s a modesty to their flirtation, but — as even Ursula verbalizes — body language is a powerful thing when you aren’t too drunk on self-indulgence to accurately pick up on it. The signs are all there. And the song is right: A man who refuses to make a move for too long will be left missing a girl worth having.
Unlike in the animated “Little Mermaid,” falling in love doesn’t literally save a person’s life, but it does provide future purpose and promise that enrich it. It’s really too bad our miserable generation won’t let 1989 have a word.