Thirteen Reasons Why Review

As the entire internet has been talking about Thirteen Reasons Why, I found myself curious to watch it, despite my reservations based off the fact that I knew the book existed growing up and never really had an interest in reading it. I had always sort of figured that it would read like a teacher’s lecture about why bullying is bad and suicide is never the answer. And while I still haven’t read the book, so I can’t say if that’s the case for Jay Asher’s work, that is not what I found in the Netflix television show.

The television show discusses in close and sometimes graphic detail issues such as suicide, bullying, rape, depression, and women’s issues, and I have to admit, I really admire the show for the directions that it sometimes chose to take. I should say, right off the bat, that I really enjoyed this show and could not stop watching it – but more on that later. First, I’m going to list off the parts of the show that I really enjoyed, and the reasons why I would recommend it to others.

The show represents bullying in a very mature and realistic way. The kids who bully Hannah (for the most part) are not one-dimensional bullies who are completely irredeemable: they are either incredibly hurt people who are too busy dealing with their own problems to notice the pain they are simultaneously causing, or they are realistically dumb kids who just don’t think that this is something that can hurt someone. And the way that the show represented either end impressed me hugely: I liked that I cared about many of the bullies, but at the same time understood why they deserved the retaliation that they received. They were neither good nor evil people, they were just people. To a certain extent, even the show’s hero, Clay, is depicted as an imperfect person, as Clay contributes to some of the bullying that goes on at school, and it’s hard to say how much of the extent to which he blames the bullies for Hannah’s death is rational. And on the other spectrum, I enjoyed the way in which simple dumb kids were depicted. There are several scenes throughout the show where characters (particularly male characters) give Hannah very back-handed compliments and genuinely don’t understand when she gets offended, and this feels very realistic to me. This is something that people (women in particular) experience all the time is a society run on a limited definition of beauty, and it was nice to see this expressed in a very realistic way and to have it explained why, exactly, this isn’t okay.

And although the show has received some criticism about the fact that, while showing characters with symptoms of depression, mental illness is never explicitly discussed, I didn’t really mind the way it was portrayed. As someone who has suffered from depression in the past (and who has a tendency to go back to depressive thoughts from time to time), I found that the symptoms of depression were clear enough that I knew what they were trying to convey. And, more than that, it really reminded me of how it felt to have depression but to not realize that you do, and to not have your mental illness recognized by people around you – which, admittedly, mostly happened to me when I was a teenager. And the majority of the characters are teenagers. Teenagers who, repeatedly, have their emotions and issues belittled unintentionally by the adults around them, and the show does a very realistic job of portraying this as well.

These facts about the show has earned it a very special place in my heart, and when I was watching it, I found that I could not look away – both because I was so engrossed in what was watching and because, at some points, I just couldn’t look away. It was like stumbling upon a car crash – you just want to keep watching until you find out what the body count is and how gory they died. There are three scenes in particular that I found to be incredibly graphic – two rape scenes and a depiction of suicide. Thus far, I’ve been praising the show for how realistic their depictions have been, but these three scenes are where I wonder if a line needs to be drawn. Upon completing the show, I found myself feeling emotionally drained and very low, and these three scenes in particular are responsible for that. They are just so graphic, so intimate, and as much as I can see the benefit of that, I can also see the harm for a specific audience.

And more on that, the way that the show treated Hannah’s decision to kill herself was sometimes questionable. Clay, the show’s protagonist and the perspective through which we see most things, believes that Hannah was justifiably driven to suicide through the actions of those around her. They let her down, they are responsible – not her. We do see other perspectives from time to time, including a school councilor who assures Clay that Hannah’s suicide wasn’t his fault and a fellow student who claims that everyone deals with pain and that “suicide is for the weak,” but Clay’s perspective is the one that is given the most weight, and it’s a perspective that I don’t agree with. When someone kills themselves, it is natural to feel like you could have done something more to avoid that outcome, but it is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. Everyone deals with pain, and everyone deals with it differently. If someone makes the choice to end their life, it is because they are dealing with overwhelming mental illness. And more than that, it is a choice that they made. It is not your fault. And the fact that they keep working under the assumption that Hannah’s suicide was the fault of anyone else but Hannah seems a little bit unfair. Yes, those who bullied and assaulted her should be held accountable, but her choice to take her own life is a separate action.

Despite my problems with the show, however, I have to say that I really loved it in the end. I loved how fleshed out and realistic the characters were, I love that they took on such important issues, and I loved that they were willing to take risks and be dark when they needed to be. I don’t know if I would recommend this show to everyone, just because of how dark and how graphic it is, but if you think that you can handle it, I would definitely say that it’s worth the watch.

Bi Erasure in Disney’s Live Action Mulan

Growing up, I watched the 1998 Disney classic Mulan a lot. Mostly because it was my sister’s favourite Disney movie, but over time, I began to gain appreciation for it as well. The animation is truly stunning, the songs are incredibly fun, the subject matter is impressively brave, and come on guys, for a cartoon character, Li Shang is pretty hot.

So when I heard that Disney was going to make a live action adaption of Mulan, I was really excited. I felt that the Chinese setting would lend itself to some truly stunning visuals and Disney always takes advantage of that, and the story is a very important one that should be told again. Along the way, a few things sprung up to try and deter my excitement: there was speculation that the film would be whitewashed, but I had faith in Disney to prove that speculation wrong, and fortunately enough, they did. There was the announcement that the amazing songs, the songs that I grew up with and loved, would not be in the film, but you know what, I understood that choice. It was a different adaption, and it does need to be taken in a different direction to be a successful film.

But the third time’s the charm, because it only just now came to my attention that Li Shang will not be included in the live action adaption. Instead, he will be replaced by another character named Chen Honghui.

Now why would this bother me so much? After all, from everything we can tell so far, Chen Honghui will play a very similar role to Shang, being Mulan’s love interest, and it’s not really like Shang was all that integral to the plot of the original that he absolutely needs to be repeated. And, yes, I have fond memories of singing along to I’ll Make a Man Out of You and realizing that Shang is actually kind of hot, but since there’s not going to be any songs in the film, I already know that that experience won’t be repeated anyway. So why get upset? Why does it matter?

Well, it matters because of the speculated reason that Disney has for replacing Shang.

Let’s get this straight right off the bat: Disney has not officially released an explanation for replacing Shang, but there has been speculation, and from where I am, it does look bad. Because, you see, since the original movie’s release in 1998, Shang has somewhat gained a reputation (especially amongst the LGBT+ crowd) for being Disney’s first bisexual character, mostly because he may or may not have started developing feelings for Mulan when he thought she was a man. Whether or not Shang is intended to be interpreted as bisexual by the writers is difficult to say, as no actual statement has been made by Disney at any point, but does that really matter? So long as the audience keeps believing that it’s true, and there is evidence in the film to support it, then for all intents and purposes, Shang is Disney’s first bisexual character. Which is awesome.

And I know what you’re thinking: that’s an awfully big leap to make, implying that Shang is being replaced because he was interpreted as bisexual. There could have been a million reasons for the choice, because his character was much more than just a speculated sexual orientation. Except Disney has said very little about this Chen Honghui fellow besides the fact that he will serve as Mulan’s adversary up until the point where he realizes that she’s a woman.

Okay, first off, correct me if I’m wrong (I don’t understand you weird people attracted to a single gender), but isn’t disliking someone up until you realize you can fuck them kind of skeezy? And secondly, that makes the replacement of Shang look really bad. Because as far as we know at this point, Chen Honghui will be the exact same character as Shang, with two alterations: his name (unimportant) and the question of whether or not he developed feelings for Mulan when he thought that she was a man (hugely important). It takes away the possible interpretation that Shang could be bisexual. It reassures the biphobic audience that, don’t worry, there’s no gay stuff going on here. Just heterosexual dude-bros doing their heterosexual dude-bro thing right up until, oh look, a woman! Better drop all that aggressive testosterone and turn it into lady-pleasing testosterone.

And as I have implied earlier in this article, I want to have the most faith in Disney possible. Their most recent film, the live action adaption of Beauty and the Beast, featured their first openly gay character, and I was all gung-ho about supporting them for it. But Shang is a bigger and more important character than Lefou. It is more significant for little boys growing up bisexual to watch a film where there is a man who is represented as masculine and desirable, and yet he is still bisexual, and that doesn’t take away from his ability to find love and help save China. Lefou was a tiny step forward for Disney, but replacing Shang with a character who we are assured is 100%, totally heterosexual is a giant leap back.

And maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. At this point, production for the live action adaption of Mulan is still in its early stages, and most of what I’m going off of here is speculation. But let’s just hope that Disney proves me wrong and gives me a film with both a badass female warrior and her openly bisexual boyfriend.

Why I Love Fantasy

“It seems as though there needs to be a monster in a story for you to like it.”

I remember being told this a few years ago, and at the time I felt the need to deny it. Because there are, in fact, many stories that I enjoy that don’t have monsters or creatures or magic in them. I like a lot of realistic fiction just fine, but when I think about the stories that I love, the ones that I, as a writer, want to emulate and would die of joy if I was even just compared to, they’re always fantasy stories.

I love fantasy stories. I love myths, legends, and fairy tales. I love Victorian Gothic novels, like Le Fanu’s Carmilla or Shelley’s Frankenstein. I love the classic works of fantasy, like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. I love fantasy novels, short works of fantasy, fantasy films, fantasy television, fantasy comics, fantasy video games. I love Star Wars, Star Trek, Disney films, Marvel, DC, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – whatever medium fantasy comes in, I love it.

And the strange thing about fantasy is that it seems to get a bit of a bad name. Not from everybody, of course – some people have more tolerance for it than others, but there are still some that will scoff at my fantasy obsession and think of it as lowly, unintelligent, a waste of time when I could be indulging in more realistic works. But the more time I spend exploring fantasy, the more I disagree.

Fantasy, as we all know, is a genre dependant on imagination. The only limits to fantasy are how far one can extend their mind. But, at the same time, fantasy doesn’t just come from nothing. A lot of fantasy stories are dependant upon the context of culture and mythology to inform them – and there’s no limit to the mythologies that they can borrow from. They can borrow from Norse mythology, Greek mythology, middle eastern mythology, Arthurian legends, pagan superstition, the Bible – they can sift through all of this, choose what suits their needs and they can make these things exist alongside one another. For this, I would argue that fantasy is actually a highly intelligent genre, continuing to teach people about ancient beliefs and mythologies.

Or, they can choose to ignore all of this background (which is also a perfectly valid choice) and they can instead choose to defamiliarize the world in which they live – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a very good example of this, taking the Victorian society of Lewis Carroll and turning it into something insane, something just barely recognizable, and therefore, satirizing it. It forces the reader to look at the things around them from a different angle. Something as mundane and constant as the lessons upper class Victorian girls were forced to repeat suddenly become ridiculous and not very useful when placed in the context of the fantastical world known as Wonderland.

And then there’s the ways in which fantasy writers place their own experiences into their work. Tolkien, for example, spent a lot of Lord of the Rings reflecting on his experiences living through World War Two. J.K. Rowling used Harry Potter as a vehicle to come to terms with her mother’s death. And only recently, Howard Ashman, one of the writers to have worked prominently on Disney’s original 1991 Beauty and the Beast, was in the news because it was revealed that he saw the Beast’s curse as a metaphor for AIDs. All of these examples are real, human issues – so big that it’s very difficult to actually put them into words, but nonetheless, they found a way to properly convey them through fantasy, and in my opinion, it doesn’t take anything away that these issues are being vocalized through hobbits, wizards, and beasts.

Fantasy forces people to open their minds and put aside their biases. Think about Harry Potter’s Professor Lupin – another character who was written as a metaphor for someone suffering from AIDs. Going into the story, one might have their own preconceived notions about someone with AIDs – they might think that they’re dirty, that they’re sick because of their own doing (I feel uncomfortable lingering on this, but you get the idea). They might be too quick to dismiss a character who is introduced, right off the bat, as someone with AIDs. But the thing is, Lupin is not a man with AIDs. Lupin is a werewolf who has been forced to live in near-poverty, shunned by society because of it. And most people don’t have preconceived biases against werewolves, so of course they sympathize for Lupin. And maybe once they find out what his character is intended to be read as a metaphor for, they might reflect on their own opinions about people with AIDs and how they are treated by society.

Fantasy forces people to consider others’ perspectives. If you can easily understand the perspective of a wizard, a hobbit, a prophesied hero – three things that you will never be – then why wouldn’t you be able to understand the perspective of someone of a different gender, or race, or sexual orientation?

Fantasy teaches people about the world around them – not by representing it exactly as it is, but by discussing its issues in a context where you’re mind is free, where you aren’t grounded by reality. Fantasy makes you think that anything could be possible – maybe not dragons and sorcerers, but at least bravery and standing up for what’s right. Fantasy is an open genre, one that you can take anything to. Fantasy is not just one thing.

 

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

The time has come. The 2017 remake to Beauty and the Beast is finally out. After months of waiting for something, anything, even just a trailer to come out, I have finally seen it.

And, to be fair, the film has some pretty big shoes to fill. The original 1991 adaption is pretty much a perfect movie, as far as I’m concerned. It’s really difficult to compete with something that has already won my heart so completely, but nonetheless, I went into this movie really, really wanting to like it. After all, there was a lot to it that was incredibly promising.

I loved the casting of the movie, which included some pretty incredible actors who suited their roles perfectly – Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, and Josh Gad in particular. I loved the speculation that this would be the first Disney movie to feature an openly gay character (although this is hardly the first Disney movie to feature a gay character, let’s be honest here). And considering I’ve seen Stephen Chbosky write some pretty interesting works with similar themes, I figured that he’d produce an incredible script. And if all else failed, if nothing else in this movie was at all good, I had faith from what I had seen that at least the visuals would be stunning – something that was true about prior live action Disney films, like Maleficent, Cinderella, and the Jungle Book. Really, my only concern about the movie was that it might just be a direct remake of the original with only a few filler scenes thrown in to make it fill a longer running time, but since the original was so good anyway, would that really be a bad thing? If that was the worst that I had to fear, then at least it wasn’t going to be a bad movie. Just a pointless one.

So having seen it now, how did it hold up to expectations? Was it as good as the original? Was it just a pointless remake?

 

 

Let’s start with the one thing I figured I had to like: the cast. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know a whole lot about Dan Stevens going into this film, having never seen him in anything else, but the rest of the cast comprised of people that I knew and loved and expected great things out of.

Emma Watson, for example, couldn’t possibly be bad, the way that I saw it. After all, she had pretty much played this role before, when she portrayed Hermione in what is perhaps my favourite franchise, Harry Potter. I was dying to see her in this, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt sort of let down. In all honesty, as much as I thought that Emma Watson was perfectly casted before going into the film, I quickly changed my mind when I actually saw her. A lot of people have been complaining about the fact that her singing voice isn’t the greatest, and as much as I agree with that, it’s nothing compared to the fact that she just couldn’t emote all that well. Naturally, Emma Watson strikes me as a woman who’s very controlled, very prim and proper, while Belle in the original was passionate and highly emotional. And to be honest, Emma Watson’s acting really took away from the emotional resonance of many of the scenes. The ending of the original movie to this day brings me to tears, but despite the fact that they pretty much recycled that script for the remake, I couldn’t bring myself to care. Not about Belle’s lack of emotions, and not about the Beast either.

On a similar note, Dan Stevens might have been a decent actor. I’m not entirely sure – it was really difficult to tell through all of that CGI. In animation, the Beast can be expressive, emotional, just a much as any of the human characters, but in live action, the CGI is too distracting and unconvincing, and Dan Stevens’ expressions get lost in it.

That being said, there were still performances that I enjoyed. It is impossible for me to dislike Ewan McGregor or Ian McKellen, although their characters were focused on much less in this adaption. Josh Gad was perfectly casted, and I will give absolutely no complaints about his character – he might have honestly been my favourite part in this film. And Luke Evans, portraying one of my favourite Disney villains, put in a great performance, just as I expected he would. My only problems with Gaston were in how he was written.

Which brings me to my next concern – the writing. A lot of it, as I mentioned before, was recycled from the old film, including direct dialogue. And on the one hand, yes, it’s good dialogue – there’s a reason why the original film is a classic. But at the same time, this is a remake, and it’s a remake of a film that it can never entirely replace or improve upon unless they’re willing to make some changes, rather than lean on the old film.

But, to be fair, the writing that they recycle is better than the stuff that they added. Gaston’s character has been changed drastically from the original, and this might be the thing that bothered me the most. Because like I said, I liked Gaston in the original. I liked that he wasn’t really so much of a villain as he was a spoiled brat who had been told all his life that he was right and people like Belle and the Beast were wrong. He was a man who had never been told no once in his life, he was the straight, white, hyper-masculine, in every way ideal man who felt like he was entitled to everything and everything he did was right. He wasn’t evil – just a man who became a villain through his circumstances.

Well, throw all that garbage away for this remake – in this version he’s straight-up cool with murder right from the beginning. He’s a sadist and a psychopath who’s calmed down by thoughts of pain and violence and bloodshed. His complexity is stripped away to give us a very basic villain. They do give him a backstory as though to explain all of this, making him a war veteran, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the animated adaption gave us a villain who was fascinating and complex at best and funny at least, and this adaption gave us something much simpler.

Speaking of Gaston’s backstory, furthermore, backstories seem to be pretty par for the course for this film. Belle is given a backstory involving her mother that really doesn’t add anything to the film and is actually just somewhat distracting from the plot. There are hints of a subplot involving the Beast and his father, and as interesting as I initially found that, it really isn’t explored.

And in my opinion, the Beast really wasn’t written well in this film either. The Beast from the original adaption might just be my favourite character in all of Disney. He was a hero, but he was incredibly flawed. He was a spoiled brat with a temper problem, but he still had a conscience – he just acted out because he was terribly unhappy and had an incredibly low self-esteem. He was a character who is immediately recognizable to anyone who has dealt with issues of mental illness. And in this version, he’s mostly just a dick. A lot of his more humanizing moments, ones where he’s incredibly low, to the point of being actually suicidal, are either much more understated or written out entirely. His moments of guilt regarding his behaviour are, again, either written out, or Dan Stevens really could not emote at all through that CGI. And there’s a running joke throughout the film where the Beast mocks Belle for her taste in literature that really comes across as belittling to me – but maybe that’s just because the Beast in the original was just so enthralled with her reading.

And overall, I just found that, with the exception of Lefou, I didn’t care about these characters as much as I cared about them in the original. Though the film had more time to explore these characters, they instead decided to spend this time on unnecessary backstories or songs that were written out of the original film for a reason.

Now, to be fair, there were a few things about this film that I liked. I’ve mentioned Lefou a few times, and that’s because Josh Gad really did present a great performance, and the writers did make him more complex than he was in the original (not that that was all too difficult, considering he was barely a sidekick in the original). As far as representation of a gay character goes, he wasn’t stereotypical or offensive or anything like that – though I don’t really know why he earns the title of First Gay Character in Disney when it could have gone just as easily to Winnie the Pooh or Piglet (considering their relationship to one another), or Hugo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame (who has a romance with a male goat), or Ryan Evans from High School Musical (considering actor’s speculations), or a million other characters who are just as likely to be the First Gay Character as Lefou is. No official statements are made in regard to it – there are just a lot of heavy hints, enough that it can’t really be denied, but not that it’s anything really new or spectacular for Disney.

And there were a few things about the visuals that I really enjoyed. The 17th century French aesthetic was beautiful and felt somehow unique – especially considering they actually allowed a Disney prince (a character who is supposed to be read as masculine enough to be attractive to the general audience of heterosexual cis-women) to wear make-up. And I’d love to see the film again not in 3D, just because I felt that the 3D blurred the sets quite a bit, making it difficult to say for sure that the sets were beautiful. Personally, I found some of Disney’s other live action films, including Cinderella and Maleficent, more visually stunning, which is disappointing because the original Beauty and the Beast is magnificently animated, but I can’t say that it was a complete let-down.

But overall, there is just one glaring problem with this movie, and that is the fact that it is a remake. Not all remakes are bad obviously – even Disney has produced some pretty good live action remakes recently. I liked Cinderella, I liked Maleficent, I liked the Jungle Book, but all of those movies are remakes of much older movies. Writing styles and audience expectations have changed since the time when these movies came out originally, and therefore there were little character tweaks and plot developments that could be made. Maleficent could be turned into a grey-area character rather than a straight-out villain. The stepmother and the prince in Cinderella could be developed better. And societal views about the ‘primitive’ Indian jungle have changed since 1967. But our society’s expectations around writing haven’t actually changed all that much since 1991 – or, at least, Beauty and the Beast wasn’t as outdated as the other films that have been remade. And to a certain extent, that does make this film sort of pointless. Why do we need another Beauty and the Beast, clogged up with pointless scenes and unnecessary alterations, when the first one is still perfectly fine?

And as much as I’ve complained about this film (and trust me, there’s still more I can say), I wouldn’t call it a complete waste of time. I’m glad I saw it. I needed to see it, considering how much I love the original. And I won’t deny that my love of the original might just cloud my opinion of the remake – as you can tell from my review, as I was repeatedly comparing the two movies. The only reason why this movie fails, in my opinion, is that it was already done better. Otherwise, this might be a perfectly serviceable adaption of the fairy tale. So if you want to see it, you won’t be wasting your time. You just won’t be watching an improvement on the story.

Disney Princess Movie Reviews: The Little Mermaid

Part of reviewing Disney’s fourth princess movie, the 1989 animated classic the Little Mermaid, involves admitting my history with the film. Because when I was a little girl, the Little Mermaid was my favourite Disney film (may or may not have been tied with Peter Pan, and it would later be replaced by Pocahontas, but more on that later).

I wanted to be Ariel. My family still tells stories about me as a snot-nosed three-year-old obnoxiously trying to sing like her, stuffing both of my legs into the same pants leg so that I could pretend to be a mermaid. Because a big part of my obsession with this movie has to do with my lifelong obsession with mermaids that started at a very young age (partially due to the Little Mermaid, partially due to a little-known horror film called She Creature that I also watched obsessively as a child). My love of this movie may or may not be responsible for the fact that I would later start dying my hair bright red and haven’t been able to stop since – who knows? All that I’m trying to say is that this movie impacted the little girl who first saw it.

But I’m twenty-two now. My tastes have changed, I’m a bit more mature, a bit more critically minded; how do I feel about it now?

To be honest, I still sort of love it. Not for any specific, intelligent reason that I can discern – in fact, I don’t really know why I do (besides the fact that I’m still obsessed with mermaids). What is it about this movie that has kept me coming back after all these years?

Could it be the villain? Because when I think about this movie, Ursula is one of the first things that comes to my mind. Once again, Disney has made use of the figure of a wicked woman for their villain, but there’s just something fabulous and wonderful about her. I remember hearing that Ursula was inspired by the famous drag queen Divine, and my first thought was that that makes total sense. Ursula perfectly captures the personality of the stereotypical drag queen performance, the overall big-ness. And unlike the last three female villains, Ursula is not necessarily a woman with power. She’s a witch, yes, but she lives on the outskirts of society, banished for reasons that I still really want to find out. She has no influence over anyone, unlike the Evil Queen of Snow White, the stepmother who rules with an iron fist in Cinderella, and the castle-dwelling fairy who demands respect from even the monarchy in Sleeping Beauty. Though a small change, it does a great deal in altering the message that woman should not be given power lest they misuse it and hurt someone that could be read into the prior films. In fact, the argument could even be made that Ursula acts as she does directly because she has been robbed of her power by the King, as we never really know why she was banished from society in the first place. Her cruelty might actually be a desperate attempt to seize back the power that was taken from her.

And if this moral can’t be read into Ursula, it most certainly can be read into Ariel. Ariel who quite literally loses her voice, her ability to communicate and stand up for herself, and in the process loses everything. It isn’t until she takes her voice back and once again gains the ability to speak that she is able to fix the mess that has become of her life. Though most of this is on the metaphoric level, a lot of it seems to be indicating a message that women need to have their own voice. They need to have power in their own personal lives if they are ever going to find happiness. That’s why I don’t mind the changes that this movie makes to the fairy tale – the unhappy ending works brilliantly for a Christian tale, but when you take the Christianity out of it (as Disney does) you need to replace it with something, and a message about girls shaping their own future as opposed to leaving it in the hands of their fathers or lovers is as good as any.

But I have heard a lot of people argue that this movie is actually incredibly sexist, claiming that the story is all about how women should have to change to get a man because Ariel trades in her tail and her family for legs and a husband. Personally, however, I never quite saw this in the movie, mostly because… well, Ariel wants to be human before she even meets Prince Eric. It’s her defining trait, the thing that makes her different from everyone else in her kingdom. Heck, she even sings Part of Your World before laying eyes on him! Eric just becomes a part of this great, big package that she already wanted. So the way I see it, she isn’t sacrificing her tail and family for a man, she sacrificing them for the life she always wanted, the life that she thinks will make her happy, the way that real people without fins will sacrifice things for the arts, or to live in a specific city, or go to a certain school. The deal just becomes a little sweeter when you throw love in there as well. And, to be honest, as a writer I can completely relate to the longing to reach a world that everyone and everything around you tells you you can’t. A mermaid can’t walk on land, and I can’t make a living off of creating fictional stories off my life. So maybe I just like to watch Ariel prove them all wrong.

And I’ve also heard some people state that the Little Mermaid can be read as a metaphor for life as a transgender person – being born in a body that you’re dissatisfied with, longing to be able to change, not being accepted by your old-school father because of it. And, personally, I think that any story that is able to resonate with people in that way is awesome.

So now that I’m a grown-up person, maybe I love the Little Mermaid based off a bit more than just the fact that Ariel’s pretty and I want to be a mermaid. I don’t entirely know if I’d still love it in the same way if I didn’t have that history, but fortunately I’ll never have to find out. I can just spend my life sitting in front of the TV and singing along with Ariel about how I long to be part of her world.