"It sparkles like the ocean!"
Photo shoot with Ariel in her new dress!
Someone asked for this.
So here we go!
I would like to take this moment to say I will happily create femslash art r edits at request.
AAAAAHHHHH THIS IS SO GREAT!!!
Also request art you say???
Why yes! I do say!
I am taking all Disney Femslash requests here, movies, sequels, and shows!
Ariel and Yearning: a love letter to the diaspora
There’s a reason The Little Mermaid is one of my fave Disney films, even as an adult. There’s scenes and themes that make me tear up no matter how old I am. The most prominent of these is the “Part of that World” theme that’s Ariel’s driving motivation throughout the movie. Leaving aside the polarization of the human and mer-world, and the problematic siphoning of Ariel’s desires and dreams into heterosexual marriage, I want to appreciate the song ‘Part of your World’ for a second and what it means to me not only as a girl who’s always wanted more, but as a brown grl living a diasporic life. Firstly, look at Ariel’s face here
Look at how excited she is, how full of dreams. I mean this is a girl that’s lived her entire life under the Sea and yet is brave enough to want to walk on land, and be part of the human world, and learn and grow. She doesn’t hesitate to say “I want more” and that’s pretty damn amazing because how often do young girls get to see their desires and dreams validated? How often does a movie give us celebrations of a young girl’s ambition, her curiosity, her desire? I remember this feeling exactly. This was me at 14 reading Shakespeare and Wordsworth for the first time and dreaming of England. This was me winning all the essay contests at my school and still hungering for more, knowing there was more.
And really, Ariel, like me, had consumed every bit of knowledge she could access: the ‘gadgets and gizmos’, the ‘who’s its and what’s its’ and “thingamabobs”, but it’s not enough, she wants the authenticity of her own experience, she wants to touch and taste and feel and live the things she’s read about. Girls are often encouraged to remain content with experiencing life through a window; it’s boys who go forth and get bruised and experience things. But here’s Ariel saying I WANT THAT TOO and i want it really badly and I’m going to sing about it because my desires matter.
Now look at these:
She wants to learn, to know, to understand. Education is what she values. As an immigrant girl I can’t stress enough how much this speaks to me. When you grow up in the Third World you grow up knowing that education is your lifeline, it’s what’s gonna open the doors of the world for you, it’s what’s gonna help you survive. You value it and treasure it and suck up every drop you can because even this resource is limited, and monopolized elsewhere by people with more power and wealth. Ariel touching the candleflame in this painting is particularly poignant - the painting is Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by Georges de la Tour - because it symbolizes women’s struggle for education and enlightenment. Just like the Magdalene, Ariel has only been privy to watching, not doing. The Magdalene’s pensive, waiting posture mirrors her own life as a mermaid looking up at the world she wants. It’s even more amazing that Ariel touches the flame, signifying her desire to experience knowledge rather than just witness it; she does what the woman in the painting can’t, she’s breaking a historical barrier and taking what she wants.
I wanna talk about the reprise of “Part of your World” too because there’re some beautiful,amazing moments. First, this:
the way she says “he’s so beautiful.” How many times do we get a disney princess saying that about a man? How many times in media do we get this, even in adult media? Not often! And the yearning and wonder in her voice isn’t downplayed at all, it’s there in all its sensual and innocent beauty.
And then, when she’s watching him walk away, just look at her face, LOOK at the yearning and the determination all trembling there because that’s it, that’s all she has: her desire and her courage
I mean this part always makes me tear up because that was ME, that was me when I was 17 and looking at college applications and dreaming of countries three oceans away, countries I’d never been to, countries I’d seen in countless movies and read about in books, countries where I was convinced I HAD to be in order to follow my dreams. Shailja Patel, the Kenyan desi poet, writes about the trembling desires of young brown immigrant kids so well when she says:
" the shilling falls against the pound / college fees for overseas students / rise like flood tides / love is a luxury / priced in hard currency / ringed by tariffs / and we devour prospectuses / of ivied buildings smooth lawns vast / libraries the way Jehovah’s witnesses / gobble visions of paradise / because we know we’ll have to be / twice as good three times as fast four times as driven / with angels powers and principalities on our side just / to get / on the plane"
and then, the next clip:
Look at her it’s like she’s preparing to launch herself off the rock, out of the sea and into the human world, she’s literally ready to propel herself into a new life, her posture embodies the fierce desire she’s been singing about, and this, right here, in this scene, is when Ariel is the most beautiful to me, because it’s where I see myself in her.
There’s a lot about Disney I hate, and they do a ton of fucked up shit. But one of the few things they got right was this song, and this girl’s yearning, something that’s still radical after all these years.
For all the dreaming mermaids out there, the diaspora kids and the immigrant grls: go get ‘em bb grl xoxoxoxox
good post from you, as always :)
i promised sofiyah some disney a while ago and recently i’ve also had this pressing urge to draw some mermaids of color so here is a racebent ariel!!!
so here is the thing about ariel, is that she always dreams of being on land with feet, is explicitly canonically unhappy with her body & choices way before meeting prince eric. ariel wants to read and learn and dance and stand for herself. she has this extensive meticulous collection of all the shit she wants to learn, and king triton destroys it. so she is essentially, i think, moving from a male-dominated space in which her safe personal spaces are negated and her opinions and desires are dismissed to one in which she shares power and is (LITERALLY!!!!) given free reign. like, prince eric is essentially a narrative device allowing ariel to choose her own future & self. if she can make him fall in love with her, she can stay NOT ONLY with him BUT ALSO on land, where she has always wanted to belong, notably away from her father— who ok, is frightened for her safety, but who also terrorizes and belittles her.
and yeah, she exchanges her voice to make that transition, but those are the choices marginalized people are forced to make. this is how identity works in structural oppression— ok, you can have the body you want and live with the lover you choose, but you give up some of your rights. you give up some of your social respect. you give up your voice. (whoops i queered it.)(and ariel still is never without personal expression; on her day out with eric, they do straight up everything she wants and eric is totally cool with her being in charge. JSYK.)
and ariel’s voice is meant to be not only her communication but also her beauty— how many times under the sea did we hear TRITON’S SILVER-VOICED DAUGHTER, like she was corralled and praised explicitly (solely!) because of her singing ability, to the point where her reaction to giving up her voice was not “how will i communicate” but “why would he love me.” wow!!! children’s texts about the social valuation and manipulation of women’s bodies!!!! and the little mermaid is explicitly about the bargains ruthless precious ariel chooses to make in order to get what she has always wanted— feet and freedom. she doesn’t change her body for a man; she changes it for herself.
and while we should mention about how the structural progression of beauty & the beast is deeply fucked up, belle gets the fuck out of the castle until the beast changes his behavior to her and, like ariel, negotiates for authority in a space where her desire for knowledge is celebrated and supported. you’ll remember she was otherized & mocked in the village whereas the beast a) gave her a library and b) did everything she ever said ever. (i also think it’s relevant to talk about classism in beauty & the beast, like belle is all GUYS I READ THIS BOOK and they’re like GIRL WE HAVE SHIT TO DO.) in the village she was relegated to the women’s spaces which consisted of STOP READING, GET MARRIED, REPRODUCE, like you have to be practical and useful and obedient to be a Good Woman
and her choice still entails marriage, but marriage which is not a domestication but rather an avenue to social and personal power. people forget that belle is just as wild and selfish and opinionated as the beast is; she is also an outcast. and yes, the plotline can support a romanticizing of abusive relationships, a social narrative of good women making bad men better, i am not arguing that it’s not thematically fucked up. the story, following the fairytale, focuses on the beast’s ~transformation~, but belle also changes; this is also a story about two people society has deemed monsters recognizing each other’s worth and beauty and learning to be tender to each other and to accept affection themselves. i don’t think it’s very helpful, in analyzing this story, to reduce it to good-woman-makes-bad-man-better without examining the woman as a character herself and what she gets out of it. belle is not your plot device. all of belle’s decisions in this movie are based on what she wants and values. she’s not here to redeem anybody.
jasmine is sort of an outlier in that her movie is not actually about her! this is disney’s first movie aBOUT a BOY?!?!? and so like yes, obviously, in the film ALADDIN, we focus on… aladdin… and the thematic and narrative climaxes are based on aladdin’s character and choices. but that does not inherently mean that jasmine is abused by the narrative. i also think it’s really relevant first to talk about the ways that she’s exotified— jasmine, disney’s first woc princess, has a gendered oppression more linked with her specific culture than any white princess’ gendered oppression of equal or greater value. that’s not okay. and jasmine’s personal sub-arc is primarily about the way that she is valued for her sexuality and the way that she argues for and regains control of herself as sexual being.
jasmine is one of the least passive princesses of the entire disney canon, y’all. the entire plot is set in motion when jasmine runs away because she doesn’t want to marry any of her current options, and she comes back when that goes to shit, but she’s still not willing to obey anyone. this super hotcake prince ali comes into town and she’s like you’ve got the moves, but have you got the touch???, and it turns out he does!, and she’s real into it so she’s like welp get ready to be the sultan and aladdin is like hey to the what, but jasmine’s made up her mind. jafar tries to hypnotize her into loving him and she uses his conception of her sexuality against him. she straight up femme fatales him. she is not some prize to be won.
it is jasmine alone who bestows political power: jasmine may not be able to inherit or rule alone, but she will rule, and she is determined to choose herself with whom. her personal sexual authority and political authority are inextricably linked, of which she and the movie are both cognizant. it’s fucked up, especially within the context of all the white princesses, that her body is so explicitly commodified. but that doesn’t negate her authority over her body and the way she weaponizes it. and there’s a lot of ~feminist criticism~ that’s like JASMINE TEACHES WOMEN THAT THEY’RE ONLY VALUABLE FOR THEIR SEXUALITY, but i think feminist criticism is also examining the ways women find power in their social spaces, the ways they express or attain their own desires by manipulating their contexts. jasmine also teaches women that they are in charge of their sexuality, that their bodies are theirs alone.
which is all to say, there is a lot of feminist criticism to be made of the disney princesses, but that’s not where feminist analysis has to end. these are still children’s movies about women’s choices, y’all. there are not a lot of those these days.
This is a really interesting analysis of the princesses.