Today while I was working, I was listening to playlist on Spotify with music from some of my favorite Disney movies and one of my favorite songs came on. Kiss the Girl from my favorite Disney movie, The Little Mermaid. I was initially humming along like normal when I was struck for the first time how slightly… odd… pushy and potentially… assault-y the lyrics are.
“Yes, you want her
Look at her, you know you do
It’s possible she wants you too
There’s one way to ask her
It don’t take a word, not a single word
Go on and kiss the girl, kiss the girl”
These words are not good advice or acceptable behavior. Not just today, after Me Too but never. This was never okay- Not in 1989 when this movie came out and not in 2018. This particular verse completely flies in the face of social rules women have been pushing. Namely, explicitly asking for consent. Sure, “No means No” but in reality “Only Yes means Yes.” Even when Ariel couldn’t speak, she could’ve answered yes or no questions with
by nodding or shaking her head. In fact, the same scene features Eric guessing her name and completely understanding her non-verbal cues.
This realization started me thinking about several other issues of iffy consent featured in Disney movies. (i.e. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White)
Actually, this same thing has happened to me several times this year. While watching some of my favorite Christmas classic movies Holiday Inn and White Christmas, I had a vaguely unsettled feeling when watching the dynamics between the men and women.
This kind of thing is so insidious and subtle to kids so I’m also thinking how to deal with this in the long term, like how I’ll deal with this with any kids who may be in my life some day. I listened to a podcast last week where a mom talked about how she doesn’t avoid completely the iffy things in books and movies but uses them as talking points. So when Prince Charming kisses Sleeping Beauty while she’s sleeping, she talks to her daughter about why that’s not okay and opens up a conversation about consent and personal space.
Overall, I’m not sure yet what to do with this realization. Right now, I feel the same way about it as I do about the casting of Johnny Depp in the Fantastic Beasts movies, just unhappy that this controversy has touched some as beloved to me as Harry Potter and Disney movies. It also makes me grateful for the new Disney movies like Moana that are thoughtful, entertaining and good examples to kids, boys and girls. I also think about myself, my sister and all the other strong, feminist women who watched this movies, played with Barbies and lived in a pre-Me Too world for 20 years. We made it through, led by our parents and a changing world. My potential kids will have an even more different world and they might not even be interested in this movie that was so important to me.
I’m sure I will still watch and enjoy this movie but like asking out coworkers, hugging strangers, the Today show, and lots of other things since Harvey Weinstein fell from grace, it will always be a little more complicated than it once was.