BY ERIC CLAYTON | June 2, 2023
I should be more familiar with the plot intricacies of The Little Mermaid.
Ariel is my eldest daughter’s favorite Disney princess. The songs, the swag, the stuff — we have it all, everywhere.
But as it turns out, I’ve not actually seen the whole film in a very long time. So, when we sat down in the theater to watch the new live-action version, I was surprised.
Not by the songs, of course; I did grow up in the 90s. Not by the exchange of Ariel’s voice for a shot at “true love.” We’ve cautioned our daughters more times than I can count why that’s not a great deal.
I had the general outline of the plot down. You probably remember it, too. But the story — this time, it just struck me differently.
Here’s a recap: The movie is about a young mermaid who, infatuated with the human world, finds herself madly in love with the first half-decent human she happens to find. Desperate to break free of the life she currently has, she makes an ill-begotten bargain with a sea witch and gets her shot to win both a prince and a different life, albeit without the use of her voice. Shenanigans ensue, and because this is the Disney telling, everyone more or less winds up happily ever after.
But watching the film this time around, the story struck me less as a search for happiness and more as a cautionary tale about clinging too tightly to the illusion of happiness. To assuming happiness can only be found somewhere other than right where we are. We grow so attached to what we believe will bring us happiness that we fail to embrace the joy present here, now.
As the song says, “The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.”
Every major character in the film struggles with some attachment to the illusion of happiness, to a false belief that they aren’t enough, now… Read the full piece at jesuits.org.
Eric Clayton is the deputy communications director at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, responsible for developing and sharing resources and reflections to promote Ignatian spirituality. He is the author of the forthcoming book Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press). He and his wife are both graduates of Fairfield University and live in Baltimore, MD, with their two daughters. Follow his writing at ericclaytonwrites.com.