I swear I am not that person.
I am not that awful pop culture ruiner who lives to horn their buzz-kill way into conversations they aren’t sometimes even in, lying in wait to hear others discuss their entertainment loves, the things they hold dear, and then crap all over those dear things because they are evil. Nonetheless, yesterday I innocently but completely ruined “The Little Mermaid,” a favorite movie of my friend Carol, not because I was trying to, but because I couldn’t shut my trap.
I was right about what I said. But now I feel bad about saying it.
Here’s what went down: Somehow, Carol and I, who sit near each other at work, started talking about Idina Menzel, of whom Carol is a huge fan and whom she saw in concert with her daughter. We laughed about how at her upcoming show, 80 percent of the audience won’t know her as the Tony-winning Broadway legend but as the voice of Queen Elsa from “Frozen,” because that movie’s so over-the-top popular with the young kiddies that they’re practically a cult now. And then we laughed about how “Let It Go,” the cult theme song, isn’t even all that good a song, and how we liked “Frozen” OK but didn’t love, love it. (Stand down, “Frozen” fans. I am not the enemy.) And for that second we were so connected and chill.
And then Carol said “Well, my favorite Disney movie is actually ‘The Little Mermaid,'” to which I should have responded “Really? That’s so great! What great music!” because those are things I believe, without mentioning the thing I most believe, which is that “The Little Mermaid” is a movie with great music and a heroine who actually gives up her voice – HER VOICE – for a chance at meeting a guy she’d never actually spoken to when he was conscious. She gave up her voice for love. She had no voice. I don’t know what to say here. But her voice though.
I should not have maybe said that last part, or at least as emphatically as I did. But I did, and I saw Carol’s eyes kinda widen and try to figure out whether she should laugh, cry or smack me.
“You overthought it, girl. You’re getting too deep and you ruined my thing,” she said. “You’re evil.”
I started apologizing because I was not trying to be that person, or blow her mind or change it or do anything to her mind. I was just frothing at the mouth about a thing that has been a thing for me for a while, and which, again, I am right about, because it is exactly the wrong message to send to girls that giving up the most treasured part of yourself like Ariel did. She was young and sheltered and felt sure that this burst of wonder and curiousity she felt for Prince Eric, who she saved from a shipwreck, combined with the fantasy importance she’d already built up about the people on land who understand and don’t reprimand their daughters, was worth not only her beautiful singing voice, but her ability to speak at all. She also got a painful mystical tail-ectomy to form legs she had to learn to walk on, meaning she could never go home to the sea and travel freely in her natural state. Of course, when kids see it they might just hear the wonderful songs, or the silly fish and crabs and stuff, or thrill to the adventure.
But then they’ll learn that the title character, admittedly misguidedly, traded her voice for a guy. No…not even a guy. The chance to get a guy. And then the evil witch her she traded it to stole it, tried to pass herself off as the lady who’d saved the prince, and then tried to kill them both. As you do. I have thought this for 25 years, but Carol had not, so I took her out of a place where she could just enjoy a thing and into a reality where she could never look at the movie she loved the same again.
I felt awful.
“Do you feel awful? I don’t think you feel awful enough.”
But I do. I really do.
By the time I left the office and she had literally walked me to the stairwell to tell me again that I was an evil thing stealer, Carol smiled and told me that when she spoke to her awesome college-aged daughter next, she was going to ask her if she ever thought about Ariel’s sacrifice and what that actually meant, because even though I had messed with her head – “Mind blown!” – I had given her something think about.
“You’re still evil, though.”
Yeah. I know.
Her voice, though.