The Little Mermaid is a story of transformation.
About the Look
Ariel is my favorite Disney princess. But The Little Mermaid (1989) wasn’t my first exposure to the story. I already loved the Japanese film Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (1975) and the 1984 film Splash starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks. I watched both so often I could recite the entire story from memory. I played mermaid every time I went swimming, and even added salt to my bath the way Madison does in Splash. I cultivated a connection to the open ocean and researched any and all fairy tales and legends about part human sea creatures. To this day I consider myself descended of them.
The Little Mermaid is recognized as a queer allegory. Queer subtext has been a part of the conversation about mermaids in LGBTQIA+ spaces from Hans Christian Anderson’s love letters to a man through Howard Ashman’s contribution to the Disney film to the most recent animated film about sea creature transformation, Luca. As those spaces have become more recognized in the mainstream, so have the conversations. These stories are about feeling disconnected from societal expectations, wanting to be an authentic self but also wanting to fit in and be accepted, and the consequences of choosing one or the other, such as the loss of one’s voice or their family and community.
I’m pansexual but it hasn’t negatively affected my life. I married a man and had two children so I fulfilled my traditional obligation to society. I’ve lived my whole life in a very liberal academic bubble. In the 90s I went to Junior Prom with a girl and no one cared. Adding pronouns to my email signature is the norm where I work. I haven’t experienced the discrimination that Hans Christian Anderson or Howard Ashman or many thousands of LGBT youth do every day (link content warning: suicide).
Still, The Little Mermaid is my favorite fairy tale and my favorite Disney animated film and my favorite Tom Hanks movie, and it is a story about my lived experience wanting and going after and living with the consequences. A story of transformation into the person I want to be. It’s powerful.
About My Look
I love this outfit. Ariel was on my list this year’s Costober possibilities, but the stars absolutely aligned to let me find the parts. I got the leggings at one of my many trips to Savers. Fun leggings are more prevalent since the pandemic but secondhand green scale leggings in my size is still an impressive find. And the top is even more amazing. I found it while browsing at Goodwill; the cashier said it had gone out on the floor just hours before. Neither of us had any idea what it’s meant to be worn with/as but it screams mermaid to me.
The skirt I wore to NYCC in 2019, a Costober Effie Trinket look. The “netting” shawl I wore for my Spider-Man look in 2018. Both were purchased secondhand. And the tail socks were a birthday present from my sister-in-law, who also loves Ariel, so I can Disneybound her next time I go to the parks. I added a pink gloss to my hair to reference Ariel.
My props are La Petit Sirène, a storybook adaptation of the Disney film in French, a dingelhopper aka fork, and a shell my younger child found on the beach one summer, painted in a rainbow, and gifted to me. It lives on one of the windowsills that surrounds my bed. The photos were taken on the Connecticut shoreline and it was an absolutely perfect day for it.