The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Anderson

POINTS: 1 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

Oh Hans, you poor disturbed dear!

Okay, so before Disney got hold of it, this was a story of a girl who martyred herself for love, basically. Hans Anderson had a bit of a thing for tragic tales of unrequited love redeemed by religion, probably because he was a nutjob who stalked a singer for years believing her to be like his one true soul mate. (Seriously, if you have a lot of hours of your life you’d like to lose, read his autobiography. It’s long as hell, but the insight it gives you into Anderson’s weird brain and interesting social issues is pretty fascinating.)

Anderson did pen my all time favourite fairy tale, and there is no doubt there was some genius there, but this one kind of makes my skin crawl, and the older and wiser I get, the more that becomes true.

There are no named characters in the whole story, so it can’t pass the Bechdel, though it would be hard-pressed to do that anyway. If the mermaid’s sisters had names and if the dialogue about what they saw above the water was written as actual dialogue, it might have, but that’s a lot of ifs.

From a feminist point of view, this story fails in every way. The mermaid quite literally gives up her voice for a man who not only doesn’t love her but essentially treats her like a pet. She sleeps on a velvet cushion before his door. A velvet cushion. Before his door. Like a mother-fucking dog. And this is portrayed as some sort of enormous favour. (I mean, look, I know, fairy tales, and also, nature of the times and all that, but bloody hell.)

She is in constant pain from the fact that every step feels like knives stabbing into her feet, but she smiles sweetly and dances like an angel and no one has any bloody idea.

Then when he marries someone else (because she like, never learned to write, or figure out any kind of real communication so she could oh say for example TELL HIM SHE LOVED HIM), she sacrifices her life for his and is rewarded with the opportunity to spend hundreds of years in service doing “good things” in order to “earn” a soul.

I just…. UGH. No. Gross.

Go read The Snow Queen instead. At least Gerda has some frikkin’ attitude.


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