When You’re Reading EVERYTHING

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Dear Reader,

Sometimes curiosity strikes, and it strikes hard. You know how in a film, a bell will toll in an eerie way, indicating that something dramatic is about to happen. Basically, that is how I feel at the moment, but with a lot less eer, ear? eerie? Good grief!

I am currently working on the first episode of my podcast, and I have been meaning for it to go up sooner than later, but I have been waiting on some sources to arrive via the post, and I also wanted to make sure I really got into all the sources I could before I put the first one out into the world. I know that I am putting a lot of effort into this first go, and I am so happy to be “creating”. That feels good. It does leave me slightly apprehensive about what future podcasts will look like. The book I am working on is not that long, and I’ve really spent a lot of time on it. I want these podcasts to be monthly, but I need to evaluate how much work needs to go into each one. I’ve re-read the book, gone over and over passages, read secondary sources, read primary sources—honestly, I don’t mind that it has taken me the time it has taken me, simply for the reason that I needed to read those sources ANYWAY. There is a point in your life where you just need to sit down and read the hard stuff. And I firmly believe that you should spend time on those things. You don’t have to rush that. You want to linger in it—go right ahead. I feel like maybe in the future if I’m teaching a class or someone is on a deadline with me, they might reference this blog post and say, well you said it was okay. Uhh, alright, but at least make sure you’re really getting to know the material. That is one of my biggest loves–I love when one is given the opportunity to really get acquainted with history, theory, methodologies, philosophy, critiques, criticisms, ideas, art, tragedy: DO THOSE THINGS.

So, in the last little while, I’ve read and re-read some Foucault texts, I’m re-reading/reading the whole book for the first time Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, and I’ve read Plato’s Symposium. I also read this little legal book I bought in England–back in the days when I wanted to study law–about the legal case(s) of Oscar Wilde [I mean, really, past-self, you bought the book about the literary guy you love, and you thought you were going to do law…rightttttt!] So, lots of pride there for me. Remember to be proud of the effort you put into reading. That’s amazing stuff! Feel really good about cracking those spines–both the books and yours as you remember that your back bone does not like to be discombobulated into that contortionist pose in which you must read.

I wanted to touch in because I know I have been absent for a while. I’ve been harnessing that instinct to hop on here and share all of the excitement I have for what I am reading and putting it into my podcast. I’ve got tons of notebooks and papers scattered around my room, and it will soon be funnelled into aural communication.

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Another thing on my mind is the fact that I really need to organize some of the books next to my desk. It would be helpful if I could just live in this idealized space that grew as I acquired books, but marshmallow-world is not yet a reality. So, until then, I’m going to have to spend time organizing. But, I mean, that is also a rather soothing task.

Also, I want to add, you should read books that make you happy. I know that sometimes we try to force ourselves into loving things that aren’t necessarily right for us at the time. So, if you’re not feeling something, just put it down and respect that feeling. You can come back to it, or not. I think we put a lot of pressure onto ourselves about needing to read certain books because it is what other people are reading. I think we should always challenge ourselves in our reading careers, but I also think we need to remember to enjoy what we read. I’ve wanted to read The Idiot for a while now, but, at the same time, I also did not feel like reading that kind of book. And, there will be a time, maybe in November, when it’s frigid AF outside, and I pick up the book and I think: why did I wait so long? But that is the paradox of reading, we can get so much pleasure from one book that, at another time, might have been a massive headache or thorn in our eye. So, respect how you feel when you read. Don’t be afraid to put the book down: unless it’s an assigned reading and your grade depends on it–then, my airy-fairy, free-will advice sort of goes to pot, you can call me kettle.

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So, I’ve got to go make Nietzsche peachy, create some queer book words, and share my voice. Women are doing it! We really are (women is not an exclusive identity, that is, you do you!).  Be free, my pretties! (How on earth did I just go to giving off wicked witch vibes? YOLO! Just don’t splash me with water!)

 

Heaps and heaps of love,

Word Play, Xx

A Rumi Kind of Day

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I have been meaning to post about Charles Dickens recently, but I’ve been a little busy reading about Hegel. I have also been distracted by Rumi. I love his poetry so infinitely much. I don’t own any Rumi collections, which makes me sad. I tend to go into bookstores with people, and I think buying Rumi is such an intimate act that I don’t want to share that with someone else. To me, it’s like sharing something so intrinsic. I find buying books to be very intimate; it speaks to the words you want to swim in your head, the voices you want to tell you things, and the stories you want to collate in your being.

Last year, I almost bought a Rumi collection, but I purchased a wicked copy of The Iliad instead. I mean, it’s not a bad choice! In a game of Would You Rather, I think that could, potentially, be a deal breaker. Do you chose Homer or Rumi? What DO you do? So, I chose Homer, and I can’t say I regret that decision because I knew that I needed Homer at that moment in my life. There was a battle raging in my mind, and Homer gave me the tools to watch how battles can be glorious and well-fought but that your hero will die. Well, that was the aesthetic of the time, the hero must die for it to be considered beautiful and tragic–a sublime melancholy. J.K Rowling showed us the hero just needs to love and “DO” out of love for our fellow humans, beings (of all creatures), and earth.

But, now, I think it is time for Rumi. To me, reading Rumi reminds me of sinking into the most luxurious, healing bath water. I should explain this metaphor a little further. I am a water person. When I was little, other kids would play with each other during fun-swims, but me, I would go to the deep-end and swim as deep as I could. I’d swim under all of the feet of the swimmers, like their feet were seaweed leaves swaying at the surface. And, in my own underwater world, I’d live. I swam with dolphins and mermaids; I solved mysteries of life; I was. That sense of being complete is what I feel when I’m in water. Two years ago, I swam in Lake Ontario. I have been in lake water before, but never in such a large, uncertain body of water. I used to always stare at the water, and I’d watch the ripples grate into each other, a perfect infinity. Being in the water epitomized the intellectualization of a vast infinity. When you look into infinity, you admire its presence. When you are within it, the forces of the other, alien forces, push you and desire you to become part of that system. Like being really tiny in an average-sized tub of jello, you are thrust back and forth, bouncing. But, it is not jello, and you are in the mechanism of infinity. That is how Rumi’s words make me feel.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
-Rumi

Infinite.

Heaps of Love,
WordPlay Xx
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Reader’s Regret ⎜On Reading When It’s Right For You

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I’ve been thinking a lot about when we read books. It has been said that we come to the books we read when we need them most. I’ve been going through my shelves lately, and I kept thinking, I bought this when I was a teenager, why didn’t I read this then? Why didn’t I read this then? How would my life be different? What complex emotions would I have derived from this experience at that time?

Reader’s regret?

I have to stop myself from giving into that feeling, except as a motivator to keep reading as voraciously as possible. Or, as much as I can. My eyes hate day-reading, so I end up staying up really late to read. It makes no sense; but I think years of libraries have, in fact, ruined daytime for me. So I will use this feeling to spur on better reading habits, but I won’t let it define me or make me feel bad for *past me* not knowing or empathizing or understanding those emotions and feelings the author presents or limits.

I remind myself that those books are still open to me, and, in fact, because I understand language and its nuance more than I did before, those words will take me to places into which I had, previously, been unable to tap. Booktubers often do a year-end wrap-up video about ‘Books that Made Me’. It applies to my reader’s regret. All of the books that I have read, thus far, inform how and what I read in the future. I may pick up a book that I bought when I was a teen, probably a little inappropriately (some of the books I bought were quite mature), and read and enjoy.

For example, I can’t quite remember how old I was, but Costo sold some of Ophah’s Bookclub Books. My mom bought me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. I have only read one of the three, so far, and I only read A Tree in 2013. I do plan on reading the other two, but not just yet. East of Eden seems like a summer novel—and Canadian summers can get sultry—so maybe this summer. Additionally, I think my reading was informed more by Canada’s links to the UK and slight idolatry of UK literature over American literature, so that also informed my reluctance to tackle American lit. (Sorry guys…but I’ll get there). The reason I haven’t picked up Solitude, is mostly that other people have said a lot of “it was a long book”…so peer-pressure!!

A Bit of Fry and Laurie / tumblr

***

Back on point, I was an avid reader as a child, so I read other books instead of these. I think they were also a little too mature for my preteen or early-teen self. I think the language and nuance would have been a little lost compared to my reading them now. I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men when I was in my early teens, and I did love it a lot. But, I had many other book to read and re-read. When I was younger, I definitely had an immortality complex when it came to books. I had/have all the time in the world to read. So, I read what I wanted and what I chose. I re-read books many time. I have re-read The Hobbit more times than I can count. Indeed, I read it so many times when I was so young, that it is a “gospel truth” to me. I don’t doubt the existence of hobbits. You all need to stop being such noisy walkers!!

Indeed, I read other books. I didn’t read some of the ones I was bought or took out from the library. I snuck books that belonged to my mom or sister. The books that I read then, have read since, and am reading inform what and how I read. I read Betty Smith’s book in the spring of 2013. I read it, and I saw myself so firmly in the character of Francie. Our childhoods were quite a bit different because I belonged to the sort of middling classes of a privileged country. Yet, I learned and could empathize and connect with the main character because of our mutual love of books and language, our desire to learn in spite of the expense of school, and our desire to share language with others. When I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I fell in love. I recommended it to everyone. I underlined passages and shared them on twitter. I would send photos via text of underlined pages. Pages upon pages, I underlined with love. Margins scribbled in a book that was warped from the final pressure my hands, heart, mind, and eyes exerted upon the covers and spine of this precious book. I loved it so much then and there and now, that I don’t regret that I didn’t read it when I was younger because I wanted to tell the world how much I read or how sophisticated my tastes were. I regret not reading it when I was younger because it was such a pleasure and I wish I had always known that feeling.

But, I remind myself, you did and do. I remind myself of reading The Hobbit and Harry Potter and picture books with my mum. I remind myself of dragging Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland around with me everywhere and not reading it. Sometimes we read books and sometimes we don’t, but books are our most exciting and powerful resources. Wielding a book means power. If you are reading right it is not a tyrannical power, but a power to engage and develop empathy. It gives us the power to engage with the creativity or frustration of the author.

IT Crowd / tumblr

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale the summer before I turned 14. I may not have really understood the stake of Atwood’s story: feminism, patriarchal structures of oppression, &c., but reading it exposed me to that language. I was exposed in a way that I had not been before. I may not have understood feminism from one book, but I was being equipped with the language to be able to understand. I read Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai in school, whilst gay marriage and homosexuality were being discussed distantly in the news or by our elders, this book provided a moment to engage personally and critically (literary not judgementally) with, for me and my peers, a new language: sexuality.

On a brief side note, this is why the internet is so important. It makes these types of knowledges so accessible. I read about these ideas through literature and later through various philosophers etc., but the internet allows young people to engage in discussions of feminism and LGBTQ+. Of course, there will always be trolls and havoc-causers, but I do think the internet has opened a space where language can instantaneously permeate through otherwise impervious spaces. The language of acceptance becomes normalized. But keep reading, young ones, it’s the stuff of life.

So, friends, I wish that I had always been capable of reading the way I do now. I wish that, at the age of fifteen, I could have picked up a book and seen through ideology. I saw the things I saw, even if I was still learning. I’ve read and listened; I’ve worked hard to read the way I do. It was never a chore, except sometimes. I wish I could see the nuance I do now. But, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I hope that I am able to look back, in ten- or twenty-years time, and say, I wish I understood these (new) things back then, too.

The Great Gatsby / giphy

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Word Play Xx

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On Privacy and Narrative.

unnamed-6The act of reading is an intimate act. You sit alone in your flat. You become alone in a crowded space, as your mind submerges into the text. You hear the author’s words resonate from the silent paper as waves of sound pulsate through your body. At the perfect harmony, you are shattered. Reading allows for a personal intimacy, an intimacy with the text, and an intimacy with the character. Whether or not the narrator is reliable pressures our ability to trust our access to characters’ private lives. Part of us may let go, most of us may cling to the edges of the newly bound or ruggedly aged book in our hands. In my own experience, there is always a sense of wanting privacy and self-freedom, whilst also wanting someone to, omnipotently, understand our own narratives. We don’t want to have to explain ourselves. We want an empathetic audience to our lives, but on some level, wouldn’t that just be insufferable? I’ve been thinking, today, about the need for privacy and space whilst reading Oliver Twist. Of course, many narratives do not give the mundane reality of a person’s day. For instance, not once has Oliver had a wee. Am I the only one that this bothers? (haha, please don’t run away with the idea that I think about this and this alone). But such mundane acts are the building blocks of life. A narrative takes the reader through the character’s movements–as much as we can see, as much as is pertinent to the narrator and/or author’s articulations. Reading can seem especially invasive if we are reading a memoir or a memoir-styled fiction. It seems quite perplexing, in a humuorous sort of way, that to escape this world and slip into a quiet sanctuary, that we, unnoticed by the cast, emerge into other peoples’ lives. Of course, I am also going to claim that, although some might argue the observer effect is null-and-void in this context, it is at the forefront of our engagement with the text, story, film, or television show. We always bring our own biases and knowledges to a book. We each have our own particular strengths. I, for instance, can recall quotations from theoretical texts, but I find it much harder to recall lines from literature. I am incredibly envious of people who can memorise these quotations. I’ll have to work on it, I suppose. Back to my point, we always bring our own state of mind (at the time), our own set of knowledges, our own abilities and lack of ability to empathise, and our own interpretations to what we are viewing or beholden. Our observer effect does not effect the ink’s immutability upon the page, but it is key to our understanding of what we read. We cannot change what happens upon a screen, but how we engage with it is our own observer effect. This may be dubious in other areas of life, ‘research’, or writings, but our nature to engage with things on nuanced and varied measures is precisely the (abstract) beauty of reading. Thus, in our own small ways, as we escape into these worlds, you can align or malign with a particular character. The books become about us, inasmuch as they are about other things. Perhaps, that is why in cases of extreme emotion–it is difficult to lose yourself in a book. But, I’ll always remind myself. The lustful craving for privacy and lack of intimacy is willfully and beautifully undone by the power of narrative, character development, and/even the deconstruction of narrative itself. Those silly post-modernists; shucks.

***

Additionally, I am setting myself a goal of Five Books in March. I’m trying to whiz through Oliver, but so far, I’ve been a little slow with it. My own narrative continues to drown out Oliver’s. But, if anyone is intimidated by Dickens, do read this book. Dickens has such a beautiful way of phrasing things. tumblr_nkpcm0aFEe1sb2oz2o1_1280 Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? I’ve read P&P, and if I don’t get to it this month, I might save it for early spring (Canadian weather). To me, it is a spring novel. Maybe, I can bring it forth sooner through literature? Also, I picked up my copy of Northanger Abbey today and was gently perusing it. This might also contribute to my slow pace with Oliver. Woopsiedaisy. I hope you’ll read along with me and/or let me know what you think about these books or a book you’re reading. Be the courageous ones I know you all to be. I wish you peace and happiness.

Heaps of Love,
Word Play Xx

Knits and Books

IMG_4852 I am currently working on a knitting project. It will be a hat, when all is said and done. The border will be knit in one direction and then I’ll knit the top in the other. 🙂 It is my intention to work quite slowly on this project because it’s one of those things. Normally, I knit quite quickly and I stay up even later to finish projects, but this time I am knitting patiently and I do believe it will be quite pretty. I’m using quite fine wool, it is alpaca and deliciously soft. I have 8cm / 3 inches complete, and I know I’ll probably have to knit to at least 21 or 22 inches before I begin the top of the hat.  Now, onto books. I’ve been trying to find a unique way to keep myself on track, and I think I’ll just set up my own bookclub of one. Currently, I’m reading The Iliad by Homer and The Pickwick Papers by Dickens.  IMG_4853 Both texts are quite unique, and the pairing is like trying a new dish. I am going to try and work my way through quite a few novels and texts this year. I will read The Odyssey in the near future, but I will break up my time between Iliad and Odysseus’s journey home.  In order to make sure I’m not overwhelming my to-be-read list, I will probably set myself a currently reading and the next book I want to read, rather than sit down and make a plan of attack. I will choose books on a more short-term basis because I think books have stronger magic upon us at certain times, and we should respect that magic. Additionally, my pace might seem a little slow because I also like to do background reading on some of the more historic works, such as Homer’s texts. I can write an entry on some of the history and critical theory on The Iliad if you would like. Let me know in the comments.  I’ll make a more effective and creative post about this bookclub of one. Feel free to read along with me, and let me know what you’re reading too or even if you want to read the same book too. I scoured Goodreads for ages to find a book club that hadn’t yet read the books I wanted to tackle, but I’m so fickle that nothing seemed to fit. I haven’t yet decided what I will read after these two texts, and part of that is because I am waiting for some books to come in the post.  What books are you guys reading, and what tips do you have to stay on track? Keep well and lots of love, X

The Litigation Mermaid: Ideas of Consent and Contracts

Disney / GIPHY

Ariel signs a contract. Ursula acquires Ariel’s voice. Ariel has three days to kiss Eric, and, if she fails to do so, her soul becomes Ursula’s. Poor Unfortunate Souls, indeed. Although, Ursula is cast off as a villain in The Little Mermaid as an othered body—a powerful female, who is not a merman, and compared to Ariel’s slim waistline, fat. Her otherness is meant to vilify her in the context of Ariel’s so-called innocent quest for love and a different kind of othered body. It is arguable that The Little Mermaid is as much about the legal truths of contracts as it is a doe-eyed love story. In fact, I also argue that this film is not so doe-eyed, but a tale of sexual awakening and includes ideas of consent, if not outright comments on the subject.

First, let’s discuss the terms and conditions of Ariel’s agreement to Ursula. Ariel is not naively signing her soul and voice away; Ursula tells her the results of not paying a debt. Ursula shows a mermaid and man who wanted to become more attractive to impress one another, a vanity which costs them their souls. Arguably, their souls were in peril before Ursula got to them. Indeed, Ursula’s own size and curves emphasize the hubris of the choices of the mermaid/man to slim down her waisteline and to bulk his pecks, instead of just accepting themselves and each other for who they are [naive, right?]. Ariel and other Disney Princesses have unrealistic body types, Ursula’s parable about weight undeniably shows how unrealistic and disastrous coveting these body types are. Indeed, as we see in Ursula’s later transformation to woo Eric, she may chose to look however she wants. Ultimately, Ursula’s entire song “Pour Unfortunate Souls” shows the dangers of covetousness and hubris.

Disney / GIPHY

For example, underwater, Ariel is used to doing as she pleases. She is out-spoken, fearless, and adventurous. But to get above water, Ariel must give her voice to Ursula. The agreement is not all that unfair. In true trinity fashion, Ursula exchanges three days as a human with Ariel for her voice and Ariel needs to acquire “true love’s kiss.” Ariel agrees, and signs her name to the contract. 

Disney / GIPHY

Now, we all know that Ursula wants to use Ariel’s wish to be human to acquire King Triton’s throne and triton to rule the waters. She will manipulate the contract in order to acquire the goods from Prince Eric, so Ariel’s soul will become hers. Yet, the film focuses on Ursula’s contract with Ariel and her final contract with Triton. The presence of the legally binding contract is more authoritative than Triton’s sovereignty, his foul temper. Indeed, let us examine Triton’s court and his behaviour. Like the French Kings, a luxurious court life is meant to symbolize divine right and kingship. We see that his other daughters behave frivolously and sing little ditties to keep the court amused. Entertainment is the opiate of the masses—bread and circuses. But this style of kingship sacrifices the populace for the grandeur and splendour of court life.

Moreover, Ariel is, from the start, shown to be irresponsible to court life because she is not at the concert. Instead, she searches shipwrecks for signs of human and their wares. Ariel seeks the other–the humans that mermaids/men, and underwater life fear. Indeed, humans are seen as a chaotic and harmful force to the water’s ecosystem. Their waste is worrisome to Triton, and that his youngest and dearest daughter collects the detritus completely unnerves him. Instead of explaining himself to us or Ariel, he finds his daughter worshipping the idol of Prince Eric and destroys it all. HUMANS?! BADDIES! (Thanks Triton) But Ursula is willing to transgress the boundaries between land and water, human and not-human. Ursula sends Ariel into the human world after she sacrificed her voice in exchange for the legs. Ariel is, thus, still tied to the underwater world because her voice is trapped under water in a legally binding contract with Ursula. Moreover, Ursula’s contracts do pull Ariel back into the water and even has the power to unravel Triton’s power. So, instead of simply seeing the patriarchal forces of the film play out, we must note that Ursula’s contracts are more powerful than Triton. This is why she is scary. She can overpower Triton. It is when she starts to use Triton’s triton (phallus?) that she is undone and defeated by Eric. Triumphing not only over Ursula, at her death, but also over Triton’s waters. Ariel and Eric do, indeed, get married on a boat and Triton has to concede to Ariel and Eric’s love. Ursula’s disruption to Triton’s authority forever changes the relationship between land and water.

Before I discuss the presence of consent in the film, I discuss the othering of Ursula’s body. We’ve already touched on the divisive quality of man and nature in the film—this divisiveness is a type of othering. The human world is othered because it is different from the underwater world over which Triton reigns. It is seen as a negative place because it is not known, and it is inhabited by difference. See the song “Under The Sea” to drive this point home. Now, the othering of Ursula body is similar in idea. Ursula is immediately identified as a villain in the film. Is it the darkness with which she is associated? She does not look like the white, pristine mermaids/men. Is it that she is not white? Is is that her sexuality is overt, where the barely clad mermaids are somehow innocent and chaste? She is also a woman with, seemingly, unnatural powers. But, where Triton uses his triton to ‘magic’ events, Ursula actually relies on contracts for power. She relies on an enlightenment-based principle of contract and law to make agreements and settle debts. The results of unpaid debts are, indeed, ghastly. Who really wants to look like a slug or a piece of old sea kelp? The questions raised show that Ursula’s legal actions are blurred and convoluted by the fact that she is a non-white, not skinny, woman. Ursula’s marginalization should keep her oppressed, but she has power.

I remember, as a child, watching Ursula and knowing right away that she was meant to be recognized as the baddie. Ariel’s innocence was so starkly contrasted in Ursula’s knowledge of being sexy and what men want. Not mermen…real men. For example: 

Disney // Giphy

Yes, Ursula has curves. Yes, Ursula is sexy. She knows the importance of body language. Look at that butt. DAYAMM. Also, those red lips. You can see that she is aware she is sexy. But there is also this discomfort present. Why should she feel sexy? She doesn’t look like Ariel. She is not skinny. She is not doe-eyed. She is not the daughter of the King. She is not… But her sexuality and knowledge of sexuality is unmistakeable. Her own self-awareness is lost on children as a negative inference, but Ursula’s character should be seen as an empowered female character. A character who has to fight and play dirty for what she wants. Is it only dirty because she is a woman? Negative adjectives are attached to women’s actions, whereas a male character would be considered a hero–trying to claim power from Triton, a king who creates margins and alienation. Ursula has made her own spaces to assert her power. Ursula certainly does not hold her tongue. She even wields Ariel’s voice in the film.

Disney / GIPHY

Ursula’s assertion of power is captured in her claim: “It’s she who holds her tongue who gets her man.” Whose tongue? Ariels! Ursula has her voice and Ariel’s voice. With it, she is able to manipulate Eric into falling in love with her. Note that when Ariel regains her voice after the sea-creature shenanigans at the wedding, Eric immediately races to Ariel. It is not female submissiveness, but the assertion of power and authority that negotiates power relations in the water and out–the voice.

Disney / GIPHY

Ursula’s character is sexy. That is undeniable. Eight (ten) arms are better than two? Anyway, Ariel’s character is understood as an unaware, innocent, young girl seeking her true love. Prince Eric. *swoons* But Ariel’s character should not be understood as an non-sexual being. Ariel is experiencing a sexual awakening in the film. Ariel is crushing on Eric like no other crush before. Haha. Lies. We’ve all been there. But Ariel is awakened, and she wants to be part of Eric’s world. Although Ariel’s character is chastised as a child and she is very childlike, it is undeniable that she is older than these characteristics. She is portrayed as naive and chaste, but she makes the contract with Ursula. She knows she wants to leave the water to find Eric.

Disney / GIPHY

Disney / GIPHY

Although, Ariel’s character appeals to children, the film, even unknowingly, expresses the sexual awakening of a young woman. Perhaps, that she metamorphoses into a human with legs—literally, becoming a woman, her sexual awakening is complete.

Now, speaking of sexual awakenings and our massive crush on Prince Eric. So dreamy. *giggles* It is all so sudden. Oh yes, where was I? Let us move to our final discussion, that of consent. Ursula told Ariel that she had three days to make her humanness permanent by having true love’s kiss—can it be true love if both parties cannot communicate openly with one another? No! So, perhaps Ursula’s contract was always filled with clauses and impossible loopholes in her favour. But, I digress. The song “Kiss the Girl” has often been read as a moment where the kiss is meant to happen to the girl, but, arguably, Ariel’s friends are her voice in this scene. She WANTS to kiss Eric and for Eric to want to kiss her. Alas, the boat is upturned at the end of the scene, and maybe we can consider Ursula to be a bastion of consent, rather than trying to stop all possible kissing moments [cock block]. [Of course, Ursula’s attempt to marry Eric is an example of consent gone to pooh]. But even if Eric does kiss Ariel, consent is not present. Eric does not know who Ariel is, and Ariel is using him to become human.

Disney / GIPHY

Ariel and Eric cannot kiss until both parties can communicate. The kiss is not consensual until communication is present. And while Ursula has Ariel’s voice, communication is impossible and so, too, is consent. Writing or sign language are not necessarily options because of the premise of the contract; indeed, there is a scene where Ariel attempts to communicate by signing, but Eric cannot understand her signs. Finally, it is when Ariel speaks, Eric recognizes her and they both go to kiss. But they are stopped as Ariel changes back into a mermaid. The contract to kiss him was not known by both parties; communication has failed. When the contracts binding Ariel to Ursula are resolved, Triton signs a contract to release her, Eric fights to save Ariel. This happens in very quick succession, but the events that unravel show the necessity of consent.

In conclusion: 

Disney / GIPHY


Yes, The Little Mermaid has its issues that many feminists have discussed more eloquently than I, but I think that there are also instances where women are shown to have power, sexual awareness, and consent. Indeed, Ursula’s knowledge of contracts is an area that could, perhaps, be explored. Octopi Law School; Under the Sea Academy of Law; The Eight Balancing Arms of Justice….I could go on.

EDIT: URSULAW SCHOOL