The Little Mermaid came out in 1990 and quickly became one of my favorites by Disney. I have always loved the music fr om this movie which may have distracted me from investigating the messages it presents more closely. Messages which I grasped when it first aired included: the dissatisfaction of “staying in your place”; the mantra there is no sacrifice too big for love; and evil will try to foil your plan. Ariel, protagonist mermaid, pined for life as a human and even though all of her friends warned that humans were bad she was determined to become one. Dissatisfied living “under the sea” and enthralled with the mysterious lives of humans Ariel collects the artifacts of men and dreams of a day when she can walk and dance with a human man. She longed to be a “part of their world” and made sacrifices in order to be near her prince. Ariel had one special gift, her voice, which was appreciated by all and envied by an evil sea witch. This witch made a bargain with the mermaid to exchange her voice for 3 days as a human with the promise that if the prince kisses her, she will remain human. When Ariel argues that she must have her voice in order to win the heart of her man, the witch reminds her that men don’t want to hear her talk; rather her looks, smile, and body language will suffice. When the sea witch sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls” her incantations take on results similar to those promised today through cosmetic surgery.
Life as a human is not the romantic picture Arial imagines. Humans, in particular men are hard to figure out and a little dense if the prince is a typical specimen. When Ariel fails to seal the deal with a kiss, she realizes that she will never be human. It is when she finally gives up on her dream to be with her prince that fate brings her the opportunity to save his life and be loved and accepted by him. In the end, Ariel regains her voice and marries the handsome human prince with the consent of her father, family, and friends. This is a fairy tale, a fairly tale about mermaids but also a lesson to young women about the traits which men will value in them.
The Hip-Hop culture and Rap music are more difficult for me to identify, the graphic sexual and violent nature of it is difficult for me to listen to. The sexualization and objectification of women is readily apparent in this media and exampled by Ludicris, and Lil Wayne. Because the messages are not packaged with talking ocean life and catchy tunes the devaluing of womens underscores the lyrics. Songs by these Rap artists feature the objectification of women through violence, sex, and an openly confrontational frustration with society. Lyrics continually reinforce the need to prove virility, control of or domination of a woman. and the ability to make a lot of money while rebelling against the system. As a female, the images and expectations presented by Disney and rap artists are contradictory at a surface level. On closer examination both forms of entertainment media send girls and women clear messages of conformity, silence, subservience and sexuality.