Misguided Messages from the Mermaid

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I have never made a secret of the fact that I am not a big fan of the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. While the movie has its plus sides – the humorous scenes, the catchy songs, and the artistic imagery that Disney is known for – it has its negative points as well. And these negative points, in my mind, outweigh the positives. 

So what is wrong with The Little Mermaid? I believe the very message of the movie is just plain wrong. The movie’s main point seems to be that children should be free to do whatever their hearts tell them to do.

How does it teach this?

A young girl with a beautiful voice falls in “love at first sight” with a handsome young prince. Never mind the fact that the two have never so much as spoken to each other. Witnessing from a distance his charming flute playing and dancing (with a dog, I might add) are all it takes to win this young girl’s heart! When a natural disaster strikes, she saves him from drowning (which is a redeeming thing for a heroine to do, by the way). But then, she defies her father’s wishes to stay away from the young man, and takes things to a whole new level by risking her life and giving up her voice to a creepy sea witch. Why? So that she could become human for three days and try to get the prince to give her a true love’s kiss. (Oh, yes, this sounds like a great idea.)

Naturally you would think that there would be some sort of negative consequence to Ariel’s folly in the end, right?

Wrong.

By the end of the movie, Ariel gets everything that she wants. She goes against her father’s command, nearly destroys all of her homeland through her disobedience, and nearly gets her father killed. And yet – she marries the prince and is congratulated by everyone for all that she did. And father? Oh yes, he sees the error of his overbearing and unsympathetic ways.

Message? Follow your heart… you know best. Parents – let your children do what they want… they know better than you.

So what is wrong with the message? Firstly, as I said in an earlier post, the Bible condemns the heart as a poor source of discernment. Even though it feels pretty good to listen to your heart, God clearly does not approve of us following it.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ~Jeremiah 17:9

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. ~Matthew 15:18

Secondly, young people (including teenagers) need help making huge decisions. Even mature adults seek advice on life-altering decisions! How much more should young people seek the wisdom and advice of their parents or trusted elders? 

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. ~Colossians 3:20

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. ~Exodus 20:12

Now, Ariel’s dad definitely had a few anger issues! But that is a subject for another time, and it surely does not excuse Ariel’s behavior towards him. Two wrongs don’t make a right, right? Ariel completely disobeyed her father, and everything worked out for her when she did, making it sound perfectly all right for others to disobey parents! Not a good message for young, easily-influenced children watching a Disney movie to hear. 🙂

So even though The Little Mermaid can be funny, entertaining, and, to some extent, even sweet, it has a message which clearly goes against what the Bible teaches. You can of course watch The Little Mermaid and be a Christian, but be wary of what kinds of messages it is teaching. And please do not listen to the message that children should listen to their hearts!

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4 comments

  1. Frey says:

    Yes, I do not like this film either. But one thing is absolutely not alright with your assessment. Feelings can be crucial to form a good opinion. The Heart has often saved my from my mind wich is notorious for destroying friendships, and relationships.
    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ~Jeremiah 17:9
    That is one of many comments in the Bible wich I cannot accept. You would have to be too out of tune with yourself not to be able to let your heart have a good say in decision making.

    As for the obedience part, again right in principle and context with the film, but I see a friend of mine who entered an apprenticeship his father told him to take up. My friend is 21. He is uncomfortable and unhappy. His talents lie elsewhere. He should have stopped acting like a child, telling his father he resigned. But faith is holding him back. And this is by far not an exception but rather the norm nowadays. The Parents put pressure into everything.
    The bible was written by human beings that all were different and had their own agendas.

    • Ashlyn says:

      Yes, I do not like this film either. But one thing is absolutely not alright with your assessment. Feelings can be crucial to form a good opinion. The Heart has often saved my from my mind wich is notorious for destroying friendships, and relationships.
      The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ~Jeremiah 17:9
      That is one of many comments in the Bible wich I cannot accept. You would have to be too out of tune with yourself not to be able to let your heart have a good say in decision making.

      Frey, I’m afraid that you’re missing the point of this passage, and that is because you are looking at the wrong definition for “heart.” God does not use the word “heart” to denote feelings or the emotional hemisphere of the brain, but He’s speaking of the basic sin nature in humans- the heart of sin. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel did not make decisions based on emotions- who in her right mind would feel happy about visiting a sea witch and giving up her voice? No, there was something beyond emotions and reason alike which made Ariel choose to make a tough decision. She followed her basic sin nature- that little temptation inside her that told her this crush was more important than anything else.

      Hopefully now you can see what the verse means: God says that the heart- sin nature- is desperately sick, something which is evident all over the world. Now think about it. With all the shootings and other tragedies over the past few weeks, can anyone reasonably deny that something is wrong with human nature? That’s what the Bible is saying here.

      As for the obedience part, again right in principle and context with the film, but I see a friend of mine who entered an apprenticeship his father told him to take up. My friend is 21. He is uncomfortable and unhappy. His talents lie elsewhere. He should have stopped acting like a child, telling his father he resigned. But faith is holding him back. And this is by far not an exception but rather the norm nowadays. The Parents put pressure into everything.

      What you say about pressure from parents is sadly true, but don’t make the mistake of confusing your friend’s parents for the Bible. Blaming God’s word for people’s abuse of it is like a schoolboy blaming his history book for his own action of slapping his friend. Sure, the boy can make up an excuse, like “I was just doing as the Americans did when the English tried to take away their liberty in 1812!” But that will not justify his actions, and it will never diminish the legitimacy of his textbook. It’s the boy who needs reforming, not the book.

      In Scripture, God takes into account the fact that people are basically bad and tells us to obey earthly authorities only insofar as their rules are in line with His. It’s always a tricky subject, but the Bible gives us varied examples. In one instance, Moses recorded the fact that “God blessed” doctors who disobeyed a cruel law requiring them to kill newborn babies. We also read about Daniel and his three friends, who engaged in respectful debate with heathen authorities and eventually made huge impacts in Babylon. I encourage you to read that story starting in Daniel 1: http://www.esvbible.org/Daniel%201/.

      I must also point out that the Bible nowhere says that adults have to obey their parents’ every whim; it only says that sons and daughters must honor their parents. The oft-misquoted command to “obey your parents” in Colossians 3 is specifically for children. For Ariel, we’re talking about a sixteen-year-old who wants to run away with her crush, not a twenty-one-year-old who is fully in tune with his abilities and calling.

      The bible was written by human beings that all were different and had their own agendas.

      This I don’t understand. Are you suggesting that the apostles who were later slaughtered for their faith were trying to gain a little something by making up a story? Please give me an example of one of these “agendas.”

  2. Caity says:

    Yeah. I had to read a Disney version of the book to a couple of little kids at school, and no, it doesn’t have a good message to it. I’m so glad that there are others who feel this way too! 🙂

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