The Little Mermaid Encouraged My Emotional Masochism, and I Love That

by: David Chastity 

A few weeks ago, a friend shared this with me on Google+. (Yes, I use Google+. You’re missing out.) It turns out, according to some historical research posted on tumblr, that The Little Mermaid was written as a love letter by Hans Christian Andersen to another man. Apparently ol’ HCA was a half-‘mo, totally capable of falling for dudes as for ladies, although sadly restricted in his ability to act on his queerest desires. His loss is our gain, though, because The Little Mermaid is a really great love story.

I was especially attracted to this bit of news because The Little Mermaid is a special story for me. The Disney movie came out when I was two, see, and it was the first movie I saw in theaters. My dad took me, starting a long tradition of us going to movies together, usually around Christmastime. And starting a less intentional tradition of my dad accidentally exposing me to all kinds of Gay Gayness, which I certainly would have found on my own, but which is more hilarious because he brought it on.

The Little Mermaid is almost certainly the queer-love story in my mind. I don’t even remember that first time I saw it, but I definitely saw it plenty more times as a child, and it primed me to love Gay Love Stories best. We all know the basic outline: funky misfit child dreams of some bizarre life her parents don’t understand, eventually runs away to find those people she’s idolized, falls in love with someone, and depending on if we’re still in a Disney movie, the story ends with either a wedding or a funeral. In HCA’s original, Ariel has to live in excruciating pain every time she moves her magic-created legs, and Prince Jerkface marries some other lady anyway; Ariel turns into some kind of air-sprite-thing that has to do good deeds before it can go to heaven. This ending appeals to me way more than Disney’s cutesy wedding, because I’m a fucked-up emotional masochist.

That core story is at the heart of every story I’ve loved ever since, though. An American Tale, while technically about Jewish immigrants and the love of a brother for his sister, is also a cartoon movie about a misfit who ends up with a totally different crowd and has to try to bridge those two communities to find true (familial) love. And is a movie I was obsessed with in late elementary school. Come middle school, I found fantasy novels with openly queer characters (while everyone else was reading Harry Potter, because I am a hipster), and, sure enough, a gay character whose True Love died like 6 months after they met was my absolute favorite.

Then in high school my parents got a Netflix account, and, true to my dad’s accidental enabling, I started using his queue to work my way through the helpfully collated Gay & Lesbian section. The best was when my dad rented Angels in America all on his own, because it won all those Golden Globes, and he had no idea that it was about AIDS. I watched it more than once before letting him put that red envelope back in the mailbox. Louis and Prior were so much the love story that moved my heart, like the real ending of The Little Mermaid. A fatal illness drives them apart, and Prince Jerkface finds someone else, and then the Pure of Heart Hero doesn’t really die, but must live on doing good deeds.

These days, I barely even want to watch a movie romance unless one of the couple’s going to die at the end. I got mad at I Love You Phillip Morris for faking Jim Carrey’s death. It’s not a real love story for me if there aren’t Impossible Pressures keeping the lovers apart, and queer stories have way better pressures than some weak-ass Romeo and Juliet bullshit. (Mercutio in that play, though… such a beautiful forbidden love.)

I worry about my love stories now, though. Not for myself: I am quite happily living out multiple relationships with very little external drama in my way. No, I’m worried because us Queers are becoming pretty accepted and well-integrated into society, and what if we can all just start planning weddings and living Happily Ever After like boring straight people? Fine for real life, shitty for stories. So thank you, every state that’s passing laws to try to force the queers back underground. I need your oppressive policies to fuel another generation of angsty queer artists who can churn out good love stories for me.

David Chastity is some girl who lives in a city on the East Coast and likes kissing. She also really enjoys doing the Onion A.V. Club crossword puzzle, drinking good beer and finding the secret sexual meanings in popular music. She’s working on her MDiv and convincing Jesus to marry her.

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2 responses to “The Little Mermaid Encouraged My Emotional Masochism, and I Love That

  1. Pingback: Love’s Not Real Until One Of You Dies: How the Little Mermaid Made Me an Emotional Masochist « David Chastity·

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