So you may or may not have seen the following extremely informative video on youtube, Advice for Young Girls from the Little Mermaid, which pulls out some of the main lessons from the Disney film for the edification of young girls – and aspiring mermaids – everywhere:
The video was created by Danielle Uhlarik for The Second City Network (as part of her Advice from a Cartoon Princess series, which also features Danielle as Snow White and Belle) and has been viewed, like, a billion times. So it is sort of weird if you haven’t seen it, frankly. (Second City also brings us the Sassy Gay Friend series, which includes this Hamlet spoof and really should include a little mermaid one, since if anyone needed a sassy gay friend that wasn’t a singing fish, it was Ariel.) There will be much more little mermaid talk, Disney and Hans Christian Andersen style, on this blog in the future. For now, I hope this video and illuminating interview will remind you of the profound message at the heart of both stories: giving up your voice for a hot prince is always a good idea.
So Danielle, what inspired your Advice from a Cartoon Princess series?
A little bit of common sense and a lot of desire to dress up like a princess.
Growing up, my sisters and I loved the fairy tale princesses, as did most little girls, and I also loved shows like Saturday Night Live, The Muppets and Monty Python. When you marry those inspirations you tend to see things you adore with skepticism, humor and playfulness.
My sisters and I loved to make fun of each other. But sometimes we’d need breaks, so we’d find other things to mock like the messages in those tales. Definitely was not anything new, and I’m sure many people had the same realizations about the stories. I played around with the idea through various sketches in my Chicago performances. When The Second City started The Second City Network, I decided to convert the messages as “advice for little girls” so it would fit better in a web video format.
What kind of response have you gotten?
The response to the series has been so phenomenal. I have to credit The Second City for their incredible work on the production, because they visually brought the material to life. The series has been featured on various entertainment sites: Entertainment Weekly‘s PopWatch, The Huffington Post Comedy, Jezebel, and many more. But I adore how much it has been passed around Twitter and Facebook. When The Little Mermaid video was released, it was the #4 Tweeted video that week, thanks to everyone who passed it along.
I have received everything from Hollywood studio meetings to marriage proposals to gender studies papers to this blog’s interview. But I love hearing that people are entertained by it.
Is the little mermaid secretly your favorite cartoon princess?
She definitely has my favorite costume. Seashell bikini tops = never out of fashion.
How was it, dressing like a mermaid and being surrounded by animated bubbles and sea plants?
The most fun I’ve had as an adult since last weekend, when a bartender didn’t believe I was older than 21. That was so much fun.
Do you ever secretly suspect you might be a mermaid?
No, absolutely not.
I mean, I can breathe and sing underwater pretty effortlessly, but no.
There are some sailors who have sculpted images of me on the front of their ships, but no, the idea of being a mermaid is ridiculous.
I maybe thought Splash was a documentary of my people, but to answer your question, no.
How would you compare the little mermaid to the other cartoon princesses?
Like the other princesses, she has no problem falling in love with strangers pretty quickly. She’s also absent a mother figure and maybe doesn’t have a full resume of work experience/skill sets that would impress, say, anyone.
However her hair is red, and she’s a pretty successful hoarder. So, you know, she’s got that going for her.
What do you think Ariel/the little mermaid should have done instead of giving herself a complete physical overhaul, giving up her greatest asset, leaving her family and world, and heading up to the prince’s castle?
Googled or Facebooked that prince first before undergoing so many dramatic changes. Stranger danger. I know those resources didn’t exist then, but she’s a princess of a sea, so her father had to have some kind of foreign leaders database, or at least knew a guy who knew a guy.
Were you yourself ever unduly influenced by cartoon princesses, as a young lass?
Of course! I wore the finest princess gear (read: hand-me-down tutu) to help my mom with highly important royal matters of business (read: Walgreens runs for toilet paper). In fact, I still believe there is a little bit of princess in me (read: I’m just waiting for my father to reveal that we’re a super rich royal family, so I can collect my treasure, get a fancy driver, and sleep in past 10am everyday.)
And what do you think of the Disney movies as opposed to earlier versions of these fairytales (like Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid)? The HCA little mermaid didn’t even get the prince at the end!
I actually remember reading Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid when I was young. I was familiar with the concept that the book’s always better than the movie. That mermaid didn’t succeed and for punishment of trying, she evaporated. The message to kids was more like, if you’re bad, the mermaid will have to live in air molecule limbo for more than 300 years, but if you’re good, maybe we’ll get her out on bail after 299 years.
I’m not sure I was always good kid, but I’ve been known to ring a few bells in my days to make up for any not-so-perfect deeds. If that didn’t save a Hans Christian Andersen mermaid, at least some angel somewhere sprouted wings. So we’ll call it even.
Later this week: poetess Matthea Harvey and Berlin’s singing mermaid, Lorelei Vanora. Next week: the Millionaire Matchmaker herself, Patti Stanger, gives the little mermaid advice, just in time for Valentine’s Day….
(And Weeki Wachee, later next week!)