The Little Mermaid's Live Action Movie Will Modernize Ariel's Relationship With Prince Eric

When 1989's animated film "The Little Mermaid" was released, it marked a turning point for Disney animation. It was the story of a 16-year-old mermaid named Ariel who fell in love with a man she saw for a few minutes. She trades her voice to the sea witch Ursula for legs and the ability to appear to Prince Eric as a human. If she doesn't get him to give her a "true love's kiss" in three days ... three days ... she'll be not only a mermaid again but also Ursula's servant. Luckily, it all works out, and they get married. 

But it's not the best message for young people, perhaps. Not that the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen story was much better. In that one, the mermaid wants a human soul, and a sea witch gives her a potion that gives her legs but makes it feel like knives are slicing them the whole time. She turns into sea foam after not making him fall in love with her. Again, not the best message. (Although, there is a different, better message hidden throughout.)

It was inevitable that Disney would make some changes again with the upcoming live-action film starring Halle Bailey. In a recent interview with The Face, Bailey spoke about some of these changes. Though she didn't reveal spoilers, what she said is a relief for those of us who have a ... complicated relationship with some of the earlier Disney Princesses. 

'I don't think [that] reflects modern women today

In the interview, Bailey said:

"What's beautiful about this version of 'The Little Mermaid' is that it's a lot more modern ... When we saw it when we were younger, she gave up everything for the guy. But I don't think [that] reflects modern women today. So [now] it's more about Ariel finding freedom for herself because of this world that she's obsessed with. Prince Eric, the handsome shipwrecked human for whom she gives it all up, is a cherry on top. But it's not all about him."

Whatever your thoughts on changing art for modern audiences, even the animated film did that. No one is turning into seafoam or dancing on legs that are screaming in agony like in the fairytale. Disney already updated it. To be fair, Disney has updated a lot of their more current princesses with jobs and purpose that extends beyond the prince they fall in love with, and sometimes, no prince at all. Don't get me wrong. Love is lovely. I just think maybe the idea of having a young woman in her mid-teens being forced to make someone love her in three freaking days to escape servitude isn't the best. It's nice to know that the journey is more about her in the end.

"The Little Mermaid" stars Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, David Diggs as Sebastian the crab, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, and Awkwafina as Scuttle. Alan Menken returns to co-write the soundtrack with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Rob Marshall is directing. 

"The Little Mermaid" will hit theaters on May 26, 2023.