5 Things That Don’t Make Sense About The Little Mermaid

Ariel in The Little Mermaid

Disney’s The Little Mermaid has become a classic animated tale of love, adventure, sassy crabs, and the beauty of following your heart. Over 30 years later, and the story of dreamer Ariel (Jodi Benson) and her love for Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) still resonate with so many children, teens, and adults. It remains one of Disney’s most beloved films.

The Little Mermaid has produced so many catchy songs, animated crushes, a cherished Disney Princess, and one of the most badass Disney villains of all time. It’s a fun, family friendly movie, but some things about The Little Mermaid don’t make sense. Before you go "hey, it’s just a children’s animated movie, don’t take it so seriously!" First off, you’re right. Second, that doesn’t mean that I can't explore some of the issues with this movie. The problems with The Little Mermaid are destroying lives and leaving the animated world in shambles. It’s time to take a closer look.

The Little Mermaid Chef

Why Didn’t Ariel Care That Prince Eric Ate Sea Creatures?

After Prince Eric finds Ariel and takes her to his home, the servants bathe, clothe, and invite Ariel to a fancy dinner. The dinner consists of stuffed crab. Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) nearly becomes part of the meal, but he escapes with Ariel’s help. She doesn’t even flinch or show any signs of terror, disgust, or agony about the idea of eating crabs, who we can assume are probably her friends, especially with Sebastian being a trusted adviser to her father.

We know that part of the whole circle of life and food chain involves fish eating other fish. We can assume that Ariel has eaten a fish or two, but you would think that she would be a little more worried about whether this feast of crustaceans means that Sebastian and King Triton (Kenneth Mars)’s warnings about humans are right. Triton told Ariel that humans savagely kill and destroy fish, and Sebastian started “Under the Sea” with a warning about how humans trap and eat fish. Sebastian laid out valid points and compelling arguments against trusting humans, and the problems with the human world. Ariel looked a little concerned when Sebastian sung “Under the Sea,” but then she just dismissed it.

As a mermaid, I wouldn’t be in a rush to live in a place where my friends and family could just turn into dinner without a second thought. I could never invite them over without fear that a crazy chef might cook them up and serve them to me for lunch.

Ariel and Sebastian in The Little Mermaid

Was Sebastian The Only One Available To Watch Ariel?

Sebastian is a respected, talented composer. His job is to compose music for the kingdom. His work requirements did not include looking after a hormonal princess. Yet, Triton had no problems taking Sebastian away from his actual job to make him watch Ariel. Triton should have respected Sebastian’s profession and just found someone else to put in charge of watching Ariel.

It’s not like Ariel really trusted Sebastian so much that he was the only one who could do the job. Her most trusted companion was clearly Flounder (Jason Marin), who we know would never betray Ariel, so he wouldn’t help. However, Ariel has many sisters. Ariel and her sisters seem to have a good relationship, so one of them could have easily been in charge of monitoring Ariel without it being suspicious. And really, poor Sebastion gets taken away from his real work to become a glorified baby sitter.

What Is Ursula’s Backstory Anyway?

We meet Ursula after the kingdom has already exiled her. Ursula’s whole motives for going after Ariel seems to be to get revenge on Triton and gain control of the ocean. All fine motives, but we don’t learn enough about Ursula. Why exactly does she hate Triton? We can assume that he caused her exile, but what exactly happened to make her be exiled? We assume that Ursula has always been powerful and evil, so did she do something especially evil for the kingdom to say, “That’s enough”?

Ursula also fondly remembered the times when she was in the kingdom and had everything at her feet. It seemed to imply that Ursula might have had power or control of the ocean at one point. Was there a battle between Triton and her? We want to know so many things about Ursula’s backstory. Disney left us little crumbs but not enough details for a full meal or justify her reasons for getting involved in Ariel's business. If Maleficent can get two movies, then Ursula deserves at least one live action movie explaining how she became so iconic.

Prince Eric and Ariel in The Little Mermaid

How Exactly Did Ariel And Eric Find True Love?

No one is saying that Ariel and Eric aren’t an appealing animated couple. They took a leap of faith on each other and it seemed to have worked out. But how did they really fall in love with each other? Ariel instantly fell in love with Eric because he was a hot human. Eric fell in love with Ariel because she had a pretty voice. Their courtship involved a long period of not talking, yet somehow we’re supposed to believe they’re deeply in love? They didn’t have enough real conversations to learn enough about each other to truly decide that they were meant to be together. Most of their relationship is based on their attraction to each other. This is a theme and pattern of many Disney movies; numerous classic Disney couples meet once and fall in love.

I know that it’s romantic to believe in love at first sight, but it’s also even more romantic to build a foundation before committing to forever. We don’t know how long it took from Ariel going to land until their marriage, but she still made this major sacrifice of leaving her family for someone she barely knew. The Little Mermaid could have given us a little more interaction between Eric and Ariel before the big battle with Ursula, and then their wedding.

King Triton and Ariel in The Little Mermaid

Why Couldn’t Triton Give Ariel A Way To Be Both Human And Mermaid?

In Ursula’s contract, she told Ariel to pick living in the ocean with her family and friends, or start a new life with Eric on land. Triton made the decision to let Ariel go on land so that she could be happy with Eric. It was implied that by going with Eric, she was saying goodbye to her family. During Eric and Ariel’s wedding, her family and the many creatures of the ocean attended it, but it still had more of a goodbye feel to it than a see you soon one.

Ursula put Ariel’s voice in a seashell to trap it, which allowed her to use the necklace to enchant Eric. We’re not sure why Triton couldn’t invent an object similar to allow Ariel to walk between worlds. Based on his demonstrated powers, there's no reason to believe Triton couldn’t have created a bracelet or something that allowed Ariel to switch between being a human and a mermaid when she saw fit. This would allow her to have her family and Eric. The Little Mermaid made her pick when she could have easily had it all.

Disney is currently developing a live action version of The Little Mermaid and we’re excited to see the results. Hopefully, Disney really takes my concerns about Triton removing Sebastian from his real job seriously. I’m still mad about all the songs that Sebastian didn’t get to compose because he was busy helping Ariel kiss a prince. The Little Mermaid is available to stream on Disney+.

Jerrica Tisdale
Freelance Writer

Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.