Gender Stereotypes In The Little Mermaid

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Once upon a time, there was a 16 year old mermaid princess named Ariel who gave up her voice, an important part of her identity, in order to be with a man who she became infatuated with at just one glance. Ariel has a very traditional gender-stereotypical role in the film, as the helpless, clueless, naive, physically weak, submissive, and attractive female protagonist that Disney films, especially the classics, portray so often (England). There is a lot of controversy surrounding this film in regards to its patriarchal ideals. The Little Mermaid, like most media, is build for the ‘male gaze’, a term coined by Laura Mulvey that suggests that visual entertainment, such as movies, are structured to be viewed by a masculine consumer. I will argue that the male gaze perpetuates harmful gender-stereotypes in The Little Mermaid. Mulvey’s theories on the male gaze suggest that film is structured around …show more content…

According to A. Waller Hastings Ariel didn’t have to face her consequences. The movie ends with Ariel’s father trading his life to the sea witch in order to save her. “Once again Disney’s heroine survives to find happiness thanks solely to the heroism and sacrifice of male characters” (O’Brien). Because of this, Ariel doesn’t grow or mature. Instead, everyone lives happily ever after thanks to the men in Ariel’s life (Hastings). Now, there’s nothing wrong with living happily ever after. However, this perpetuates an unrealistic expectation of life for impressionable viewers that abide by Mulvey’s theories on narcissism and how viewers may relate themselves to the object on the screen (Storey, 110). The image of a helpless damsel in distress being saved by men with no further consequences to her life is harmful because it may give viewers a distorted view of reality. The damsel in distress stereotype erases all of Ariel’s prior independence due to the fact that she has to be

In this essay, the author

  • Argues that the male gaze perpetuates harmful gender-stereotypes in the little mermaid.
  • Analyzes how mulvey's theories on the male gaze suggest that film is structured around patriarchal ideals and a male point of view.
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