I hadn’t watched The Little Mermaid in some time, so when I put it on the other night to watch with Kaylee, I noticed that my viewing of this movie has changed. I am now watching this movie from the perspective of a dad, and from that vantage-point, the most interesting character to me is King Triton.
First of all, hats off to Triton for raising seven girls all on his own (no mom to be seen). Now being underwater royalty I am sure there were mer-nannies and mer-servants to help, but still he made time to attend their little recitals even though he was running an ocean. Dad points for that effort.
But you can tell, he is barely keeping it together, which is why when his youngest starts talking crazy about humans being good and being in love with one of them, he doesn’t have the strength to make good parenting decisions, in fact he throws the biggest tantrum and trashes her room. Negative dad points for that, and for sending the most obvious spy since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to just “hang out” with Arial and sing her fun calypso songs.
When Triton learns his crab-spy was useless and his daughter is in peril, he does what any dad hopes he would do, self-sacrifice. This is the most giving thing he can do for his thankless daughter, so many many dad points for the gesture; however, due to the questionable means of underwater succession (where whoever picks up the trident and crown is the new ruler), this choice puts the entire ocean kingdom in peril.
There is a reason we here in the United States have the 25th amendment, where the President can recuse himself of his leadership duties if he cannot make decisions that would be in the benefit of the country, in circumstances such as say, if his daughter was in peril (I had done zero research on this other than watched the Zoey-kidnapped episode of The West Wing many times). There should have been a 25th Amendment in place in the under-the-sea kingdom (although who knows if they even have a sea-Congress to pass such legislation).
Nevertheless, Triton sacrifices himself to save his daughter. Then a whole lot of nonsense happens that’s not worth editorializing, and Triton is amazingly returned to form as a merman and by picking up the trident and crown, as the King of the mer-people.
So, all is well. Happy ending, right? Wrong.
There are times when I accidentally bump Kaylee and I say “Oh, I’m sorry, Kaylee” and she gets confused and says “Sorry, daddy,” and I say “No, no, Kaylee you don’t need to say you are sorry, I’m the one that bumped you.”
That’s how I feel about Ariel and Triton at the end of this movie. Triton is like Kaylee, confused and just presuming he did something wrong here, when really it should be Ariel saying sorry. Ariel should be sorry
- for putting her father in an impossible situation;
- for starting a series of events that resulted in an overthrow of the mer-government;
- for taking for granted who really loves her – her dad would have died for her.
But Ariel shows no remorse for any of these things, and just distressing over her teenage crush. Triton, confused (and no longer keeping it together at all) overcompensates and magically transforms her.
Now she can hopefully live happily ever after with the boy she’s known for three days (who tossed her aside to be with another girl just one day earlier). And if (big if) that all works out then they will live happily in a world where Triton can never visit her. This is undue self-sacrificing and not in her best interests – no bonus dad points.
Watching from the dad-perspective, I was pretty sad for poor Triton at the end of The Little Mermaid.