Emma Nigro
Dec 6, 2018 · 3 min read

The Little Mermaid, a beloved classic, is depicted through film, in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and through written text in Hans Christian Anderson’s story in Classic Fairytales. The protagonist in this tale is a youthful mermaid, who aspires to reach the surface of the ocean, with the hopes of a fruitful experience in the world above her. As the story systematically unfolds, it becomes inherently evident that the protagonist’s goal is analogous to a transgender person’s identity crisis. Although the mermaid does not want to change her biological sex, she wants to become a new creature; a human. Subsequently, this deliberation between deciding to become human or to remain a mermaid, is analogous to the internal battle that a transgender person faces pre-transition.

In the movie, Ariel also portrays this identity performance. The first example is when she sings the song “part of your world”. In this song, she is illustrating her deep desire to be in a world that is different than what is expected of her. Her father and those around her expect her to behave as a mermaid, not a human, and her lack of interest in the sea world frustrates them. She wants to be with the human prince, and have her tail removed so that she can experience a human life. Furthermore, after Ariel spends time at the surface of the sea, the king is furious and is disapproves of inability to follow his rules. He says, “Contact from the human world and the sea world is strictly forbidden”. However, she does not obey his rules because she does not feel like she belongs as a mermaid in the sea. She cannot live up to the expectations around her, because that would mean she is being intellectually dishonest about who she feels she is intuitively.

A famous transgender woman, named Amiyah Scott can help to draw connections between Ariel’s identity struggle and her own. She states,“Like Ariel, I was told I wasn’t a real girl because of my body, and this common struggle to be seen as normal, to just belong, tethered my trans girl self to Ariel’s mermaid girl self. Plus, it didn’t hurt that my childhood heroine was gorgeous — the epitome of femininity — despite struggling to exist in an untraditional form” (1).

The expectation of conforming to society can be seen through Amiyah Scott and The Little Mermaid (both digital and text). As they all undergo the struggle of mind-body dissonance, they are criticized by the external world for their lack of conformity. This criticism directly correlates with their identity and how others view them.

Elon’s Fairy Tale Files

A blog for Elon English 255, based on The Fairy Tale Review’s Fairy Tale Files. All blog written by Elon students studying fairy tales, old and new.

Emma Nigro

Written by

Elon’s Fairy Tale Files

A blog for Elon English 255, based on The Fairy Tale Review’s Fairy Tale Files. All blog written by Elon students studying fairy tales, old and new.

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