This article was written by Rebekah Brannan as part of the Breening Thursdays series.
PEPS has decided to start off the new year with a splash by breening The Little Mermaid from 1989. This family classic, the first film in the genre known as the Disney Renaissance, has been loved and revered since its release in 1989. However, like the subject of my last article, Beauty and the Beast, this film includes many vulgar, inappropriate, and potentially offensive elements. When watching this film again as a self-regulator, I was surprised to find that, although it has a generally lighter feeling than Beauty and the Beast, this film has far more unacceptable elements. Although it features lovable characters, catchy songs, and a charming storyline, when you watch this film from a breening standpoint rather than that of a typical viewer, the amount of unacceptable elements and scenarios is shocking. As a start to this new year, I will be showing you how even a beloved family film like The Little Mermaid is riddled with problems without the guidance of the PCA. Now, the lights dim, the theater hushes, and the screen bubbles to life! Get ready for a journey of breening under the sea, because here comes The Little Mermaid!
1. The first problem occurs within the first minute, showing that the film is going to be riddled with problems. We see Prince Eric’s ship out on the ocean with Eric at the bow. He asks Grimsby, his advisor, if sailing isn’t great. Grimsby sarcastically replies, “Delightful,” as his face turns green and he quickly leans over the side. Discussion of someone getting sick is vulgar, and making a joke about seasickness could be offensive to many people who suffer from it.
2. The next problem, although I will only mention it once in this article, is an ongoing problem which arises every time a mermaid is shown. All the mermaids in the film, Ariel in particular, wear skimpy shell tops which leave practically all of their torsos bare. Also, the tops of the mermaids’ tails, which are high enough on the back and the sides, dip down right at the front so that the navel is exposed. The tops must fully cover the chest, and the tails must come up high enough to cover the navel. Also, when Ariel is shown from the shoulders up, she looks as though she is not wearing a top. This is not entirely unacceptable, but I would recommend that her top have straps and a wider band in the back.
3. The next problem occurs after Ariel and Flounder trap a shark that has been chasing them. Flounder sticks his tongue out at the shark and makes a raspberry sound. Raspberries are forbidden by the Code, so this must be eliminated.
4. The next problem is also an ongoing one which presents itself every time we see the villain, Ursula. She is an octopusmaid, rather than a mermaid, and her tentacles connect to a skin-tight, low-cut black top. This top must cut higher in the front and back and be loose enough that her entire anatomy is not visible through it.
5. The next problem also involves Ursula. In one of her early scenes, as she laments her life as an outcast, she picks up a live shrimp with prominent eyeballs and eats it alive, in a close-up! This is horrible and disgusting and must be eliminated. If she must eat something, it should be dead and not have eyes. Perhaps she could have a plate of aquatic shrimp hors d’oevres.
6. The next problem takes place during Ariel’s big song, “Part of Your World.” When she says, “walking along….” she pantomimes walking by exaggeratedly shifting her hips from side to side. Although she does have a tail and therefore doesn’t technically have hips, the shape of her tail suggests the shape of legs, thus making this exaggerated hip movement suggestive.
7. When Ariel is watching Eric on his boat, a shot of the dog, Max, shows him slobbering excessively. This excessive slobbering is slightly vulgar and should be toned down.
8. The next problem occurs when Ariel has rescued Eric from drowning. She asks Scuttle the seagull if Eric is dead, and Scuttle checks by pulling Eric’s eyelid open so that you can see his eyeball. The manner in which he does this is rather vulgar and could be offensive. If he must check by looking in his eye, he should gently push up his eyelid without letting the audience see his eye, as doctors in Code films do.
9. The next problem is another ongoing one relating to Ursula. She has a garden of horrible little creatures called polyps, who are really transformed merfolk. The polyps should be made less grotesque, since their appearance could be offensive or frightening to some people.
10. Ursula’s short, unfeminine hairstyle, when combined with her low voice, makes her seem slightly mannish. Her low voice may remain, but her hairstyle should be made softer, longer, and more feminine.
11. The next problem takes place during the song “Under the Sea.” In this song, Sebastian says, “the blackfish, she sings,” and a black fish with rather large lips sings in a stereotypical African-American way. This fish could be offensive, and its appearance and voice must be made less stereotypical.
12. In this same number, a fish that looks like Carmen Miranda is shown dancing and rubbing her posterior with a piece of seaweed. Although this character is a fish, she is personified as a woman, so this vulgar movement must be eliminated.
13. The next problem occurs during Ursula’s song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” At one point in the song, she says, “on the whole I’ve been a saint,” putting a strand of seaweed over her head in a slight replication of the Virgin Mary. This is offensive to Christians and must be changed.
14. In the same song, just a moment later, Ursula comes toward the camera, now rubbing her posterior with the afore-mentioned seaweed as her chest jiggles right in front of the camera. She should not rub her posterior or dance in a way that causes her chest to jiggle. Of course, she would jiggle less if she were wearing a proper outfit with proper support.
15. Later in this scene, when Ursula is describing her spell to Ariel, she shows the little mermaid a silhouette of herself as a human, which appears to be naked. It must be made quite clear that the silhouette is wearing substantial clothing.
16. In this same scene, Ursula rolls across her cauldron as her tentacles swirl; this seems rather suggestive and should be eliminated.
17. When Ursula is trying to convince Ariel that she doesn’t need her voice to win Eric, she suggestively says, “And don’t underestimate the importance of body language,” while suggestively swinging her hips. If less accent is put on the italicized words and the accompanying movement is eliminated, the lyric may remain.
18. When Ursula begins making the brew for her spell, she throws multiple bottles holding strange creatures with prominent eyeballs into the cauldron, where they explode. This is violent and potentially disturbing and must be changed. The bottles should merely contain liquid, sand, plants, etc.
19. When Ursula casts the spell to take Ariel’s voice, two green hands made of smoke reach down her throat and pull out her voice, which is shown as a glowing golden ball. This is rather horrible and disgusting and must be changed. Instead of hands, a stream of green light should swirl around Ariel, draw her voice out of her, and sweep it into Ursula’s locket.
20. When Ariel transforms into a human, she writhes inside a golden bubble, and we see her tail split before the two halves turn into legs. This is rather violent and should be toned down. As with the removal of Ariel’s voice, the less morbid details shown, the better. A swirling golden light should surround Ariel’s tail for a few seconds before swirling away to reveal legs.
21. When Ariel transforms into a human, it is evident that she is not wearing anything but her shell top. There is not even any attempt to hide this fact, since multiple shots give us glimpses of the area below her waist. It must be quite obvious that she is wearing suitable bathing suit bottoms which cut low enough to cover her posterior and high enough to cover her navel.
22. Later, when Scuttle fails to guess what has changed about Ariel, Sebastian says that she’s got legs, exclaiming, “Jeez, man.” Jeez is a forbidden expression and must be changed to gee or some other acceptable exclamation.
23. When Scuttle dresses Ariel in an old sail he finds on the beach, the dress he makes out of it has a large slit which reveals too much of her legs. The slit must be either lowered or eliminated so that her new legs are not unduly revealed.
24. Later, when Ariel is taking a bath in Eric’s palace, the bubbles do not quite come up high enough to cover her chest completely. The bubbles must come up as high as a decent neckline so that she is not unduly exposed.
25. When Sebastian, who is hiding in Ariel’s makeshift dress, gets dunked into a washerwoman’s tub, he crudely burps. Burping is unacceptable and must be eliminated.
26. After her bath, Ariel enters the dining room in her famous pink dress. The neckline of this dress exposes too much of her chest and must be brought up. The dress will be just as beautiful and flattering with a higher neckline.
27. When Sebastian stumbles into the palace kitchen, he sees the chef, Louie, cooking a variety of seafood. Disgusted and horrified by the sight, Sebastian looks as though he is about to be sick. Just as in the opening scene, this is vulgar and must be eliminated.
28. As he cooks, Louie sings a happy little tune, “Les Poissons.” Among the song’s lyrics are the words, “I pull out what’s inside,” which Louie sings as he pulls something out of the fish he is butchering. This is rather vulgar and should be eliminated.
29. This song also features the unacceptable lyric, “God, I love little fishes, don’t you?” This is blasphemous and must be changed to a different exclamation.
30. In this same scene, Sebastian runs into a fish head with very prominent eyeballs. These prominent eyes are rather disgusting, since the fish is dead, and should be made smaller and less prominent.
31. In a later scene, when Sebastian is coaching Ariel on how to make Eric kiss her, he says, “You’ve gotta pucker up your lips like this.” He demonstrates by puckering his lips as he speaks, causing some spit to fly from his mouth. This is vulgar and should be eliminated.
32. In a later scene, Sebastian once again uses the forbidden expression Jeez. Like before, the exclamation must be replaced with gee or some other acceptable exclamation.
33. Later, Ursula, disguised as Vanessa, is singing a vindictive song about her wedding. As she sings, she throws a pin at the mirror frame, where it hits a carved cherub between the eyes. This is rather violent and should be eliminated.
34. The clergyman who marries Vanessa and Eric, who seems to be a bishop, is rather clumsy, confused, and overall comical. Comedic members of the clergy are entirely unacceptable, and the character must be made completely serious.
35. When Scuttle assembles some animals to crash the wedding, a flock of birds fly under Vanessa’s skirt, causing it to fly up. This is vulgar and must be eliminated.
36. During this same animal attack, Max bites Vanessa on her posterior. This also is vulgar and must be removed.
37. When Ursula changes back to her true form, her ample flesh bursts the slim-fitting wedding dress. This is quite vulgar and must be eliminated.
38. Later, when Ursula has captured Ariel, Eric throws a harpoon at her, making a strange, dark purple slice mark on her arm. This rather violent and should be changed. If her arm must get cut, the cut should not be too disgusting, and her blood should be a natural red, not dark purple.
39. When Ursula tries to blast Eric with the trident, she accidentally blasts her two eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, and they float down into her hands as small bits of sea-drift. These bits and pieces are disgusting and should be removed. When Flotsam and Jetsam are blasted, they should merely disappear.
40. Later, when Ursula grows to tremendous proportions, her voice becomes very big and deep. Since she already has a very low voice, this change makes her a baritone. Her voice may get louder and larger, but it must remain a woman’s voice.
41. Eric finally defeats Ursula by stabbing her with a jagged board on a wrecked ship. You actually see the board pierce her skin and then see a shot of it sticking through the other side of her. This is unduly violent and must be changed. If she must be stabbed in this fashion, we must not see the board piercing her flesh or sticking through her.
42. The rest of the death scene is also too violent. A flash of lightning makes Ursula’s skeleton briefly visible. After she sinks with the ship, an explosion erupts in the sea, and small bits of tentacles and other debris float down to her lair. We must not see her skeleton, she should not explode, and no floating debris should be left. 43. When Eric and Ariel are at last reunited, they finally share true love’s kiss. This kiss appears to be open-mouthed, something which is forbidden under the Code. Their kiss may be loving and affectionate but not lustful or open-mouthed. 44. In the final shot of the film, Ariel and Eric kiss again. This kiss appears to be open-mouthed also. It must be made not to appear lustful at all, and their mouths must clearly be closed.
This concludes my breening journey under the sea. As you can see from this article, a beloved family film contains forty-four unacceptable elements. Although there are more surface problems in The Little Mermaid than in Beauty and the Beast, the latter contains more dangerous subliminal messaging. However, there are important dangers in The Little Mermaid, as well. The primary problem is the amount of clothing worn by the mermaids. This consistent lack of clothing, particularly on the heroine, makes young girls become accustomed to dressing inappropriately. Many girls grew up watching this film and saw Ariel as a role model. When girls grew up with a role model like this, no wonder today they walk down the street practically half-dressed. Problems like these in supposed children’s films must be observed for the protection of our youth. We must open our eyes and our children’s eyes to the dangers in these films so that they will not in any way be damaged by their flaws.
I wish you all a happy new year, and I hope that you will continue to come here for more breening in 2019!
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